John Hedges named temporary leader of Oak Park's economic development efforts

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One year ago Anan Abu-Taleb and John Hedges were locked in an intense election battle to win Oak Park's village presidency. A key campaign issue was the state of Oak Park's economic development effort.

Abu-Taleb won the president's seat by a 17-point margin. A year later radically remaking economic development structures is Abu-Taleb's most notable accomplishment. 

But Monday morning, Abu-Taleb turned to his friend and former rival to fill the key vacancy at the remade Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as this group's board unanimously chose Hedges as its Interim Executive Director. 

Hedges was chosen by the EDC's Executive Committee which includes Abu-Taleb. Hedges agreed to the position over the weekend and will join the company next Monday.

In a press release issued jointly by Marty Noll, chair of the EDC and Abu-Taleb, Hedges was listed as one of nearly a dozen candidates reviewed by EDC board members. "He clearly emerged as the leading candidate because of his long association with organizations in the community and his understanding of Village government," said the release. 

Hedges served a village trustee for six years working on the village's Economic Development and Finance Committees. He once served as acting village manager and ran the Park District of Oak Park for many years. 

"We are most fortunate to have been able to name John as our interim executive director," said Noll in the release. "John brings decades of management experience and an understanding of the village and its role in economic development." 

Abu-Taleb echoed Noll's comments. "John's agreeing to lead the EDC during its reinvigoration is very important to the village and to me personally. John and I learned much about each other during the campaign. I have great confidence that he is the right person to lead the EDC at this time. He knows how much economic development means to our village." 

Hedges will lead the company during the next few months while it recruits a permanent executive director.   

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Posted: February 18th, 2014 10:33 PM

The person to lead this group, interim or permanent, need be someone who has 1st hand knowledge of GENERATING revenue through economic development, not spending it. How about a developer type like a John Scheiss, or a business owner like a Mike Fox, or a retail shopping district head like Mary Jo Schuler.......

Jimmy from Oak Park  

Posted: February 18th, 2014 4:38 PM

I also don't know in what industry someone can give a 6 month resignation letter. Was the OPDC an organization that we as a village felt was so ineffective that it was on the verge of losing funding? Hedges is interim, Faust doesn't leave until June? And who is on the board again? Same GUYS as last time? ... "In a press release issued jointly by Marty Noll, chair of the EDC. I'm reserving my optimism until I see some results. Government money must not worry about payroll.


Posted: February 18th, 2014 1:45 PM

If this is a new organization why is Marty Noll still involved? And of course John "showed interest" who wouldn't be interested in making that salary for the next few months while people get their heads out of their butts and hire someone qualified?


Posted: February 18th, 2014 8:06 AM

I do like John Hedges but even as an interim looks like the new alphabet soup of a development corp has reverted back to a very white, old boys' club. Hope they step it up in their search for permanent staff.


Posted: February 17th, 2014 11:46 PM

Even in the interim role, there were much better choices. This seems like Obama appointing Hillary to Sec of State. Outside of being a trustee, Hedges is a retiree for over 10 yrs. Does it really need an interim? Couldnt Marty Noll handle the duties in the meantime?

Judith Alexander  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 9:39 PM

I hope the permanent ED has both private sector development and public sector development corp. experience, and a strong track record in both. It is often very difficult for someone with only private sector experience to adapt to the demands of a semi-public sector job -- so much more public scrutiny and accountability, even if the new arrangement partly shields the development corp. from that. And it goes without saying that the ED needs private sector experience, too.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 7:56 PM

Well said, Chill

Let's Chill for a Bit from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 5:00 PM

John is a fine man & has solid relationships & knowledge, on that everyone agrees. Depending on who you talk to, his record was either stellar or mediocre at best. That said, let's remember that this role is TEMPORARY while a search is conducted to find a full time Executive Director. John is available and interested in serving in this transitional role, which is good. Where scrutiny should happen is the process for hiring the new ED. Swift, effective, & transparent. Good luck. Now get at it!

Anthony R. Shaker from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 3:54 PM

This is a terrible choice. Hedges was awful as head of the OP park district, and the voters weighed in on his credentials when he lost the last election. Need new blood to invigorate economic development, not same old, same old. Tied into the power structure in OP, so don't expect any new insights or ideas. We taxpayers deserve much better as cars drive through the village looking for better places to shop. He has no experience in commercial development.

Agree with Pension  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 3:18 PM

John is a swell guy and has served our village well, but our parks did fall into a great deal of disrepair under his watch. It wasn't until the the director stepped in and moved for an increase in referendum. I hope this feel good move doesn't bite us in the butt.


Posted: February 17th, 2014 3:10 PM

What experience does J Hedges have in the realm of economic development? The parks were in big trouble financially when he ran them? This seems to be a warm and fuzzy appointment on the surface.

Another View  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 3:01 PM

Rico - The EDC can't force a building owner to rent on a month-by-month lease, nor can it force Derby Lite to sign a multi-year lease, which Noon Whistle is willing to do. The unfortunate displacement of Derby Lite is the result of the commercial real estate market operating the way it should. Hopefully, Derby Lite will find a home in OP, but it's actually a bad sign for a community if large commercial spaces are available month-by-month. More permanent tenants are a good thing for the village.

Rico Cooper from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 2:40 PM

Let me get this straight: now it's his job to spend 10mos accommodating a gamble on connected aspiring beer monarchs whilst displacing an established, tax-paying, job-creating company like Derby Lite and doing nothing for them. That's his job, right?

Eric Davis from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 2:35 PM

Wow! What a class act - Anan could easily have quashed the idea but instead sees John as what he is, a valuable asset for our community. John could have snubbed the offer too but he was equally classy. It is nice to see electoral politics put aside and the greater good embraced. Now if Springfield and Washington could just do likewise.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 2:12 PM

An outstanding selection. He bridges the history of the village and the challenges of the future.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: February 17th, 2014 1:58 PM

A fine choice. He certainly has a ton of experience and seems very open minded.


Posted: February 17th, 2014 1:50 PM

Wow, this speaks so highly of Anan and John. Both are incredible Oak Parkers.

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