By Nona Tepper
After nearly two decades in office, Mayor Anthony Calderone will not seek re-election come April 2019, multiple sources have told the Forest Park Review. He has served five terms as mayor of Forest Park.
To some, Calderone's announcement is surprising. To others, perhaps not. In his email signature, Calderone quotes former President Lyndon B. Johnson, saying, "when the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor."
Calderone was elected mayor in 1999, after serving as a village commissioner for eight years. He has also served in various volunteer roles in the village, including the president of the Kiwanis Club of Forest Park, president of the West Central Municipal Conference, volunteering with the Lions Club and much more. A lifelong resident of the village, Calderone is the owner of Illinois Alarm Service, an alarm security firm. He has two children and attended Proviso East High School.
Calderone did not immediately respond to interview requests about why he has decided to leave the post, accomplishments he's proud of during his tenure, if he's prepping anyone to take his place, and any advice he'd have for those seeking to run.
The news comes on the heels of the shuttering of the Forest Park Post, a bimonthly journal that was run by Amy Rita, a long-time Calderone ally. In a forward in the Post, Rita wrote that she was closing the magazine to focus more on family, friends and her other businesses.
Calderone's step from power also follows the historic video gaming referendum, where a majority of residents voted the practice out of the village. Forest Park is the first community to publicly vote the practice out of town after the machines had already been installed. A record number of residents turned out for the vote, with more than twice as many showing up as compared to the last mayoral election. Many said they were voting against the practice because of how the village council—and particularly Calderone—handled the debate. Before the village council voted to legalize video gaming in October 2016, Calderone promised to honor a 2013 advisory referendum where residents decided by a 2-1 margin that they did not want video gaming in Forest Park.
His reverse of course caused sour feelings for many citizens, who felt their voice was not being adequately represented by those in power.
Forest Park has changed dramatically under Calderone's leadership, with the revitalization of Madison Street, cosmetic improvements to Roosevelt Road, purchase of the Altenheim property and much more. Police Chief Thomas Aftanas, Director of the Department of Public Works John Doss, Director of the Howard Mohr Community Center Karen Dylewski and more have been promoted under Calderone's tenure.
After winning the mayoral election in 2015, Calderone told the Review he would focus on better communicating with residents during this term and talked about hosting community forums with District 91 where residents could communicate with him.
"Despite the efforts to communicate with residents, we have to do more," he then said. "We have to figure out how to touch them. And I have to do better in listening and getting feedback from residents."
He said he would invite the new village council "together in different settings, all open to the public, to set goals" for the new term. Current commissioners Thomas Mannix, Joe Byrnes and Rachell Entler ran on a slate with Calderone; Commissioner Dan Novak ran as an independent.
Calderone said he would appoint members to the Diversity Commission, which has been created. He was compelled to create the Diversity Commission after proposing an ordinance banning residents from wearing their pants too low. "Should a community have any kind of standards and ideals?" he asked at the time. "Is that proper or should we accept whatever happens because it is acceptable in a different culture?"
Two other prospective mayoral candidates have emerged for the April 2019 race: Rory Hoskins and Chris Harris, who have both served as commissioners under Calderone. Harris has said he is also passing petitions for commissioner this round.