Hedges says he's ready to lead Oak Park as village president

Familiar face in Oak Park working on bid to be the village's next president

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

From the perspective of the 68-year-old Oak Park local government veteran, running for village president just makes sense.

His name, easily recognizable in the village, is already engraved in the name of the park district's administrative center, he's served as interim village manager and he's been on the board of many nonprofit organizations in town.

John Hedges won't have to tell people who he is, but he's ready to convince Oak Parkers why he's ready to be the next village president. Following his announcement that he'll seek the nomination from the Village Manager Association for the April election, as reported in last week's Wednesday Journal, Hedges said he's equipped to add the title to his name.

"There was no driving issue," he told the Journal in a sit-down interview Monday. "The time just seemed to be right. … This just seemed to be the next thing. If in fact people would like me to be president, I would really like to do it."

As a 28-year resident of Oak Park, Hedges is the retired executive director of Oak Park's park district and is in his second term as village trustee, the only retired member on the board.

With a slew of budget issues, a new village manager soon to be named and a reorganization of how village departments are managed, Oak Park is evolving. Moving forward, Hedges said the village needs to progress while sticking to a few basic principles.

"Even though it sounds old school, it kind of really goes back to the basics of what Oak Park was built around," Hedges said. "Racial diversity was probably number one and everything else kind of goes to. You have to have economic development, and you have to have good public services. To have good public services you have to have good economic development."

The issues facing Oak Park today he said are like "three legs of the stool," that keep Oak Park standing strong.

Hedges noted his experience leading the park district and village as the type that will help him have a different perspective if elected village president. He said he's ready to lead the village board without overstepping the role of village staff, and isn't concerned about launching his bid for president not knowing who the next manager will be.

"I don't think who is going to be village manager has anything to do with running for president," Hedges said. "It is completely on the other side of the ledger."

Instead, he said the difficulty would be on the village manager candidates who would have to consider leading Oak Park without knowing who is going to be heading the village board.

Working with a board during uncertain times isn't new to Hedges as he ran the park district during periods when its board was fully united and then notably dysfunctional. Faced with what he called "strong personalities," the group had a tough time resolving differences. This came at the same time as the Barrie Park environmental controversy that led to a five-year cleanup plan.

"We had some major challenges at the time," Hedges said. "But we just kept moving on."

Still, Hedges thinks his time spent working with a village manager and having the inside perspective of how administrators work will help him lead the board in a manner that accounts for all perspectives.

"My main responsibility is the village board and making sure we do our job efficiently and effectively — to make sure all thoughts are expressed, but doing it in a way that we can get things done but in a timely way and a decisive way."

Looking ahead to next spring means opportunity for Hedges. Opportunity of a new leader, opportunity to be involved in the Eisenhower Expressway redevelopment conversations, and opportunity to develop the village's business districts.

"There is always something that comes up," Hedges said. "But we're breaking in a new village manager. It's very exciting to have fresh eyes and fresh ideas. So that will be a good thing."

Six months remain until the April 9 election, but until then Hedges hopes being a familiar face will give residents and the VMA the confidence to stand behind him.

"I think they pretty much know who I am," he said.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Posted: October 8th, 2012 1:06 PM

Ray, I'm not sure what was offensive I spoke my opinion of the man I've watched over the years and have had interactions with. He may vote his conscience, but I have to wonder if he remembers what his conscience thought 10 minutes earlier.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 11:31 PM

Raymond Johnson, you said that that Sertus does not own the land at Forest and Lake. If so, why did Anna Lothson write, "The land for the project is owned by Sertus, but the village owns the aging garage that currently surrounds the property", in her story titled, "Lake and Forest project moving along in Oak Park". Who really owns the land, Raymond and why do you want to spend millions on a 300 space parking lot when you know you don't need it.?

Just Wondering  

Posted: October 7th, 2012 11:00 PM

How did John vote on the Sertus project? Does John ever comment on OP.Com?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2012 10:04 AM

Good government is only possible with full disclosure and transparency. When the village provides information to the public, the public is more informed and accountability is achieved. For Trustee Johnson to refer to "TIF reports on-line at the VOP website where there is a 'full accounting'", when in fact, TIF reports have not been completed since 2009, is either ignorant or deceptive, neither of which is an acceptable characteristic of an elected official.


Posted: October 4th, 2012 4:35 PM

John Butch Murtagh has said some off based things regarding the VMA. To support one of their candidates, if John gets the nomination, is interesting to say the least. Im sure he'll have all the wind and words in the world to JUSTIFY his endorsement. Priceless.

4 Freedom from Oak Park  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 9:40 PM

It's really unfortunate that he is more of the same. I would have been excited if he mentioned fiscal responsibility versus economic development. We all know how well governments perform with economic development. When governments invest we all lose it most every case. Making business easy and taxes lower to draw more residents into our empty condos and green apartments would be the best thing for this village.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 7:40 PM

Ray Johnson - I suspect that John Hedges does not need your help in explaining village financial data.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 7:39 PM

Ray - the world is tired of you using the same old excuses for the village TIF development. Why would I ever take your suggestion to research the village website for information (TIF expense and tax revenues from TIF developments when I know I am wasting my time. 1) the data is not on the website (See Enuf's comments), 2) you would challenge the accuracy of the information without providing your constituency with any facts. We are all worn out with your vague, non-responsive comments.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 7:10 PM

@RayJohnson ... the most recent TIF report available on the Village website from the Finance Dept. is for 2009. Please explain how "full accounting" includes "incomplete information".

Anyone Remember  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 6:36 PM

Does anybody remember Bob Milstein ending a letter to the editor with "wait till 2013"? He made sure we knew it wasnt a typo. This was a couple yrs ago. Bob o Bob where r u?

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 5:12 PM

Post revision: "pragmatic economic growth leading to an expanded tax base" helps foot the bill.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 5:10 PM

@ Clayton -- what an offensive posting. John Hedges is a dedicated public servant who fully participates at the board table and votes his conscience. @ Mr. Murtagh -- I referred you to the TIF reports on-line at the VOP website where there is a "full accounting." As well, an independent analysis was completed when the DTOP plan was updated. Trustee Hedges is stating current circumstances - service delivery costs increase much higher than CPI, and pragmatic tax expansion helps pay those costs.


Posted: October 3rd, 2012 2:10 PM

He's a good person, but he has an awful time retaining any sort of knowledge; almost as if he has alzheimers. I can't imagine him being President there but I guess if you're dead set against Pope he'll get your vote.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 3rd, 2012 1:47 PM

I am not sure I agree with the statement that "To have good public services you have to have good economic development." There are many communities providing excellent public services without good economic development -- called bedroom cities. OP has allowed public services to decline while increasing the amount of TIF usage of taxpayers money on economic development during the last ten years. A full accounting of the last twenty-five years of TIF expenditures compared to tax revenue return on investment is needed to establish if economic development has enhanced village finances.

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