A good crowd gathered last Wednesday at the Roos Rec Center for a farewell to Mayor Tony Calderone as he comes to the close of his final term as mayor. It was a warm and affectionate affair as both local public officials and ordinary Forest Parkers took the opportunity to thank Calderone for his 20 years in the head chair.
We add our thanks, too. While the Review has had its disagreements over policy with Calderone, there are many times when we believe he offered strong and capable leadership in what have been challenging times for any small community. And always we have known that Calderone has nothing but passion for his hometown. That is always clear.
Going back two decades, Tony Calderone gets credit for getting Forest Park unstuck from a very passive approach to governing. He arrived in the mayor’s office as the progressive voice for change. Specifically, and never by himself, Calderone helped drive a bold remaking of Madison Street, a downtown in genuine trouble when he arrived. He became the welcoming face of the village in recruiting new retail and restaurant uses to the street. He oversaw the implementation of a terrific streetscaping project. He saw the value, both within town and drawing visitors from the city, in an array of great events.
He championed the acquisition of the 11 acres at the Altenheim, a visionary stance that preserved this critical open space. The new mayor and council will now have to find a middle ground between development and open space.
Under his watch, housing values have improved, investment in our very diverse housing stock has accelerated, and some sense was made of Forest Park’s chaotic zoning policies. Multiple TIF districts were created to build a cash flow for improvements and to offer incentives to developers. Under Calderone, Forest Park became more connected to neighboring communities and the region overall. He worked effectively with local state legislators to bring money home for an array of projects from Roosevelt Road’s redo to the west stretch of Madison where a strong partnership was created with River Forest for improvements.
The garbage got picked up and, man, did the snow ever get plowed. Maybe most important was his constant presence in moments where he took the spotlight, and in many more moments when he worked quietly to offer help, to solve a problem.
And in this editorial, Mr. Mayor, there is no “but” coming.
Just a sincere thanks.