An overflow crowd jammed the Forest Park council chambers on May 13 for the historic changing of the guard as Rory Hoskins became the village’s first African-American mayor, ending the 20-year tenure of Anthony Calderone.
All seats were filled and approximately 100 people stood at the back of the council chambers as well as up and down both sides of the room. In addition to past and present elected officials from Forest Park and neighboring communities, the crowd included friends and family members of incoming and outgoing village officials and Forest Park residents.
The audience stood to their feet twice, giving standing ovations to Calderone after he delivered a 30-minute address and to Hoskins after he was sworn in by Cook County Judge Robert Senechalle.
Although many of the people who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting congratulated Hoskins and wished him well, the majority of those who spoke thanked Calderone for his years of service.
Setting the tone was the first speaker, Matthew O’Shea, who told Calderone, “You have put Forest Park on the map.” The former Forest Park village administrator currently serves as the village’s legislative consultant.
Other speakers included Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough; representatives from Proviso High School District 209 and the Forest Park Mall, Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society; and former mayors from surrounding communities.
“You have left a legacy in this community,” Yarbrough said. “Mr. Mayor, it’s been a good run.”
Sam Pulia, former mayor of Westchester, and Pete DiCiani, former mayor of Elmhurst, recalled how Calderone spearheaded efforts to obtain outside assistance following the floods of 2010 and 2013.
“He bleeds Forest Park,” Pulia said, “although I don’t know what color that is.”
Also thanking Calderone for his service were Melody Winston from the Forest Park Mall, Chris Everett from the Historical Society, Dorothy Gillian from the Chamber of Commerce, Ned Wagner from District 209 and Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon.
Recognized for their attendance were past and former officials from Franklin Park, Hanover Park, River Grove and Schiller Park, as well as former Forest Park Commissioner Mark Hosty.
In his 30-minute address, Calderone ran through a long list of accomplishments that were achieved during his 20 years as mayor. He also thanked his family, having to stop to compose himself, as well as those he worked with, especially village department heads and commissioners.
“Clearly in the last 20 years, I had only one goal,” Calderone said. “I was never seeking to move on to another office.
“My heart, my passion, my life, my blood, my soul have been in this village. I came into a spot knowing one day I would need to depart. When that came, I wanted to leave Forest Park a little better than when I came in. Today I feel it’s mission accomplished.
“This has been the journey of a lifetime and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to leave my mark on the village of Forest Park.”
After Senechalle administered the oaths of office to Hoskins and the four commissioners—Joseph Byrnes, Dan Novak, Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd—the newly- seated village council approved resolutions for Calderone and outgoing Commissioners Rachell Entler and Tom Mannix. In April, Byrnes and Novak were re-elected and Nero and Voogd were elected to replace Entler and Mannix, who chose not to run again.
In presenting Calderone with a framed copy of his resolution, Hoskins noted that his predecessor had missed only one meeting during his 20 years as mayor.
In his only remarks, Hoskins noted the presence of children in the audience and the multicultural makeup of the crowd.
“This is Forest Park,” he said.
Under the new village council structure, Novak switches from commissioner of streets and public improvements to accounts and finance and Byrnes from accounts and finance to public health and safety. Nero is the new commissioner of streets and public improvements and Voogd, public property.
“It feels good,” Hoskins said after the meeting. “It was an honor to be elected and it felt good to take the gavel.”
The new mayor said his initial priorities include filling vacancies on village boards and commissions and convening a group to organize a village-sponsored Hispanic/Latino event in the fall.
“I want to be visible and get people engaged,” he said.
He also said he plans to meet with the rest of the village council to gain their input and identify common priorities.
“I want a unified board,” he added.