River Forest president moves village board past deadlock

Villagers of the year: Runner up

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

When John Rigas ran for president of the River Forest board in 2009, he said he wanted to get more done.

"They've accomplished next to nothing," he said at a debate during the campaign. The bickering between the board and then-president Frank Paris had left them "unable to address the crucial needs of the village the past two years."

As Rigas' first full year as village president comes to a close, it's apparent he's broken the impasse.

River Forest came to the end of 2010 with its finances in much better shape, a capable and deft new village administrator in charge, and two major new development projects moving forward.

While Rigas often directed the conversation, he was quick to redirect much of the credit.

"The board moved forward and we accomplished things, which I think really didn't happen for the previous two years," Rigas said. "I think this year went well."

With Loyola University Medical Center moving forward on the redevelopment of the former Plunkett Furniture building on North Avenue and developer Tim Hague starting to plan the redevelopment of Lake and Lathrop, some big parcels in the village are getting attention thanks partly to Rigas' coordination with the developers.

"It's a long way from being done," Rigas said of Lake and Lathrop. "It's about getting the ball rolling on that project."

Rigas also led the charge to get a sales tax referendum passed, a measure that will help dig the budget out of a hole.

New Village Administrator Eric Palm, whom Rigas selected after an extensive interviewing process, has taken over and is spearheading the effort to select a new police chief and head of public works.

Rigas said he was sad to see the departure of former administrator Steve Gutierrez and Police Chief Frank Limon but is excited about moving forward.

"I miss the people who left; they were all great people," Rigas said. "I think change is difficult, but it's not always all bad. I think we'll have an opportunity to let some new people give us some new perspective on things."

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