By Nona Tepper
Rory Hoskins, former village commissioner, president of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization and member of the Illinois Municipal League, is passing political nomination petitions for Forest Park's highest office, aiming to unseat the two-decade reign of current Mayor Anthony Calderone.
Hoskins, 47, is the first prospective mayoral candidate to come forward for the April 2, 2019 election. He said more than eight friends and neighbors are helping him gather nomination signatures and "so far people have been really supportive." Right now, he said, he is not running with a slate and does not have a campaign manager. "I'm just passing petitions," he said.
"Public service is honorable and because I love the community I live in, I think I can offer something to the village, maybe a fresh outlook on things," Hoskins said, responding to a question on why he's running.
He said he feels passionate about Madison Street and has new ideas about how to bring more people to the village's downtown, although he declined to specify; he wants to find a better use for the vacant land at the Altenheim; and he believes the village's Diversity Commission has been under-utilized.
"Every year, September rolls around and we don't do anything to mark things like Mexican Independence Day. We have a lot of Latino citizens in Forest Park. I think other ethnic groups would like to see their cultures somehow represented by the village," he said.
Hoskins was the first African American to serve as a village commissioner and during his time on the council from 2007 to 2015, he was responsible for bringing the now-annual Juneteenth Pool Party to Forest Park, a tradition he grew up with in Galveston, Texas. He is a soccer coach and parent of four, including a third-grader at Field-Stevenson Intermediate Elementary School.
He believes his passion for the town, his time on the village council, and his professional experience make him a good fit for the mayoral post.
During Hoskins' time as village commissioner, he helped foster a partnership between District 91 schools, the village, and Loyola University, which eventually led to the implementation of a disciplinary system called Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS), which D91 still uses. Hoskins also established the relationship between former Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, D91 and the village, which eventually led to the implementation of the "One Laptop Per Child" program, providing at least 100 laptops for D91 students and sending another 100 computers to students in Rwanda, Cambodia and Haiti.
Hoskins said he was proud of the relationships he developed with other department heads and taxing bodies during his time as commissioner, as well as his two-year stint on the legislative committee of the West Central Municipal Conference.
"I built relationships with elected officials in neighboring towns, and I think I made at least one trip to Springfield every year I was on the council, if not more," Hoskins said. "That's something I would do if I was mayor, if I came back into village government."
He pointed to his six years serving as an economic development representative for the Illinois Department of Commerce as an asset to his candidacy. In that role, he said he helped lure businesses like Midland Steel Company's corporate headquarters to Chicago, using discretionary job grants, tax incentives and tax credits. He also worked as a senior tax associate at the KPMG consulting firm for three years.
Hoskins currently serves as an attorney for a small insurance regulation firm.
"I probably read contracts and proposals a little more critically than most people," he said. "I have a lot of experience in insurance, and insurance is key for our village. Whether it's insuring property, insuring the actions of our employees, liability insurance, things like that, I think my professional experience brings something to my candidacy."
He holds a master's degree in social work and a juris doctorate (J.D.) from Loyola University Chicago. This is also not his first election: In 2012, Hoskins came in second in a tight race for state representative of the seventh district, losing to Emanuel "Chris" Welch by 36 votes, according to the Cook County Clerk's Office.
"Sometimes I try to put myself in the current mayor's shoes, and I think that he's under a lot of pressure from different interest groups, whether it's people who don't want video poker, people who want to build certain things, or open certain kinds of businesses. I figure it has to weigh on him," Hoskins said. "I certainly can't think for him, but having served for eight years on the council and watched him, there were times where I thought, 'Well maybe I would do it this way. Maybe you should tell staff to do X,Y and Z.' So I think that, given the fact that he's had 20 years in that role, maybe it's time for a change."
He noted: "Change can usually be a positive thing if you have a person who's prepared to step into the role and, in this case, I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could do the job effectively and if I didn't think I'd have broad support."
As of Oct. 9, the following political candidate committees were active: "Citizens for Anthony Calderone," which holds about $15,000 in its campaign war chest; "Citizens for Daniel J. Novak," which holds $911; "Citizens for Rachell Entler," which holds $867; and "Citizens for Chris Harris," which has an empty pocketbook, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. None of these prospective candidates responded to an interview request about their intentions for the upcoming election.
Entler and Novak currently serve as village commissioners. Harris previously served as a village commissioner.
Harris also challenged Calderone in the 2015 mayoral race and lost by about 115 votes, according to the Cook County Clerk.