By Dan Haley
John Hedges, former Oak Park village trustee, former park district executive director, one-time acting village manager and, a year ago, an unsuccessful candidate for Oak Park village president, returned to public life Monday with his appointment as the interim executive director of the newly reshaped Oak Park Economic Development Corporation.
His hiring was announced jointly in a press release by Marty Noll, chairman of the new EDC, and Anan Abu-Taleb, Oak Park's village president and the man who defeated Hedges 10 months ago.
"It is going to be a lot of fun. It is going to be a lot of work," said Hedges on Monday afternoon.
Hedges laid out four main priorities for the post he will begin on Monday — running the new organization, serving as the go-between in discussions between the EDC and the village government board and staff, hiring the newly created development director post at the EDC and working to move ahead on development projects currently in the pipeline.
Having served six years on the village board, Hedges said he is largely up to speed on major proposals for Lake and Forest, South and Harlem and at the Colt/Westgate site on Lake Street in downtown Oak Park.
Hedges said he shared Abu-Taleb's sense of urgency in moving development forward more quickly in Oak Park.
"I agree with the village president. And the direction he has taken is certainly consistent with my thoughts on it," said Hedges.
Hedges declined to take himself out of the running for the permanent executive director position.
"I don't know the answer to that," said Hedges. "I'm not thinking in those terms right now."
The executive board of the new EDC, which includes Abu-Taleb and two other village hall representatives, voted unanimously to hire Hedges, who agreed to accept the position over the weekend.
Hedges said that he will make less than the $120,000 budgeted for the post in an agreement signed recently by the village board and the EDC.
In the press release issued jointly Noll and Abu-Taleb, Hedges was listed as one of nearly a dozen candidates reviewed by EDC board members.
In the press release Abu-Taleb said, "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."
The newly rechristened organization came to life Friday as it morphed from the OPDC into the EDC, accepted the resignations of most members of its former board and chose a new, smaller board of directors.
Noll, the longtime chairman of OPDC, will continue as chair of the EDC. Noll is also the chair of Community Bank Oak Park River Forest. Vice-chairman of the EDC is Thomas Gallagher, a long-time Oak Park banker and OPDC board member, who recently joined Community Bank as chief credit officer.
The EDC treasurer is William Fanter, a senior vice-president at US Bank. The board secretary is Frank Pellegrini, president of Prairie Title. Everett Ward, an attorney new to the board, will also serve on the executive committee.
Also chosen for the board were Mary Ludgin, director of global investment research for Heitman, a commercial real estate firm; Ward, an attorney with Quarles & Brady LLP; and Cathy Yen, executive director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.
Non-voting members of the EDC are Abu-Taleb, Village Trustee Peter Barber and Village Manager Cara Pavlicek. All three will also serve on the group's executive committee.