John Hedges

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Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.

Age: 68

Profession: Retired Executive Director of Park District; sitting Village Trustee

How long have you lived in Oak Park? 33 years

Why are you running for this office?

I first ran in 2007 on a slate whose theme was "Let's get Oak Park moving again," and I really believe today Oak Park IS on the move, thanks in large part to the Village Board's efforts to keep a lid on Village spending, deliver services more effectively, and improve the business environment, despite the poor economic climate of the past few years.

I am running because we need a President with the experience and support of the Board of Trustees who can hit the ground running to keep that momentum going as the overall economy improves.

I am committed to Oak Park, to public service, and to listening to the many good ideas people have in this community. I have a passion for Oak Park that has meant so much to me having raised my family here and served the community professionally. I have the time, experience and energy to be an effective Village President from day one.

Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?

Yes, I was elected in 2007 to a two-year term to finish Geoff Baker's term after he resigned, and elected in 2009 to a full four-year term as Trustee.

Have you served on other boards or commissions at a local level? If not, what makes you want to serve now?

In addition to six years as Village Trustee, I have served on a number of local boards and committees, often in a leadership role, including United Way/ Community Chest, Oak Park Community Foundation, Madison Street Business Association, Pleasant Home Foundation, OPRF Citizens Advisory Committee on Athletics and Activities, Oak Park Council of Governments, Drug and Gang Task Force, Oak Park River Forest Rotary Club, Village/District 97 Task Force on Diversity.

Do you have other experiences in local government?

Yes, I was the Executive Director of the Park District of Oak Park for twenty years 1980 to 2000; I served as Acting Village Manager in 1985 for ten months.

Are there individuals or groups which actively encouraged your interest in running for village president?

Yes, I was selected for slating by the Village Managers Association and I was encouraged by several sitting Village Trustees, business owners, and residents.

What do you consider to be the greatest strengths in Oak Park's village government?

Citizen involvement in 26 boards and commissions, many dedicated professional staffers, a great police department, our diversity and sustainability programs, a Village Board that has kept spending under control but insisted on maintaining strong service delivery, high levels of citizen interest in what happens in Oak Park.

What is the biggest issue the village/village board faces today?

The biggest issue facing the Village is its overall property tax burden, which is making Oak Park less affordable for current and prospective residents and therefore threatens to change the diverse character of Oak Park.

As President, the Village Board and I will address this issue by first insisting that Village services be delivered more cost effectively, something we've been doing since I've been on the Board and that will be a priority for me and the new Village Manager. Second, by working with other local governing bodies on ways to share operating costs to save taxpayers money. Third, by focusing on economic development to grow the local tax base, and finally, by making sure that our existing diversity programs remain strong.

What does the term "economic development" mean to you in terms of the future of Oak Park? How should the village approach this concept?

The Village government has played a vital role in economic development for decades going back to the 1960s and 1970s when disinvestment in Oak Park was rampant. It continues to be vital to the community as we work to broaden the tax base so that our local services and schools can continue to support our quality of life without further burdening taxpayers.

The Village government should help support and direct major new investment and make it easier for businesses to get up and running by taking a more holistic approach to economic development that includes collaboration with others in the community (i.e., business associations, school boards). We've more than held our own in the years since the recession, but we really have to be ready to move forward as the overall economy improves.

In your opinion, how can Oak Park continue to provide the best services possible to residents without placing additional burdens on taxpayers?

We need to find the most cost-effective ways of delivering key services to residents and businesses. This is not the time for "business as usual." We have figured out ways to do more with less over the past six years. More on-line permitting. Outsourcing. Consolidation within Village staff. Smart meters. A better budgeting process that's more timely and more transparent, which allows the Board to make better decisions. This is something I've pushed for and that I will insist on further improving as President. I also support the new Village Manager's new performance measurement standards. Through these efforts we've kept a lid on the size of the Village budget over the past several years. There are other opportunities we've taken advantage of -- our electric utility aggregation program has already saved residents more than $5 million.

What is the village's role in encouraging local business growth and helping fill vacant storefronts?

Keep in mind that Oak Park is doing far better than many surrounding areas post-recession. Our commercial occupancy rate is 92%. New businesses are opening all the time -- we issued 126 new business permits last year. And a local property broker told me recently his phone has been ringing off the hook.

We need to build on that success. Working in tandem, the Village Business Services staff and the Oak Park Development Corporation (OPDC) staff advise prospective and existing local businesses on locations, business models, and OPDC administers Village grant and low-interest loan programs. Sometimes reputations can be hard to change but the Village is easy to do business with more so today than in the past.

The coming years will be challenging. We have a lot of commercial space that's outdated. We have Internet retail to deal with. I want to see the new Village economic development director hired and to bring together the various folks involved in local development to meet this challenge with one voice for a strong Oak Park.

What else should Oak Park residents know about you?

My wife Jane and I have lived in Oak Park for 33 years. We've been married for 45 years. We have two sons, one who lives with his wife and our three grandchildren in Oak Park. The other lives close by in Chicago. I have a passion for public service especially for Oak Park.

Reader Comments

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Bradford Blair from Oak Park, IL.  

Posted: April 7th, 2013 3:03 PM

You need to cut down these taxes. You need to provide better services for the residents who has lived here for awhile like you have. Please cut the taxes on all areas of services in our community. Thanks for improved parks and neighborhood safety with decent cleanliness.

mark andrzejewski  

Posted: March 26th, 2013 4:01 PM

Mr John.I and my wife were the owners of the property at 136-144 s oak park av. Becouse of anan taleb we lost it in foreclosure. if You want any more info call me at 847-259-7374. Mark Andrzejewski

s3 from oak park  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 9:45 AM

Diversity matters to me - it was a reason for coming to Oak Park. I'm worried because my sense is that Oak Park has become less diverse over the last decade or two. Can someone (Ms. Hedges?) provide more detail about the 'award for diversity' received for the Park District?

OP Rez  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 9:43 AM

A common problem I have noticed is that the people's voices are NOT heard. The planning commission, with input from neighbors, will vote down a project and the village trustees will override that recommendation and approve the plan. Mostly because it's a developer they know and like. To me, that's business as usual. John is not obviously totally at fault but it does seem like biz as usual has been the motto for a number of years.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2013 9:15 AM

To Neglect - Yep, have to admit the parks and I mean all of them are really shaping up. But really now, if you infuse as much money in increase taxes not to mention loans the OPPD has taken out to improve our parks for our children you can see we are getting what we pay for, and boy are we gonna pay.


Posted: March 24th, 2013 9:32 PM

It seems the parks are finally getting the TLC they so needed after years of neglect......

Jane Hedges from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 2:24 PM

New Park New People, you would know the answer to this if you took the time to find out the facts. When John Hedges was at the helm, he won an award for the diversity in the Park Dist. He also, for his volunteer service to Dist. 200 and 97, was awarded the William Staszak Award by the Education Foundation. John was asked to serve on so many institutions in Oak Park and loved serving -even being Santa Clause for 25 years at the Cheney Mansion.It may not mean anything to you,but he gave!

New Parks New People  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 8:56 AM

How racially diverse was the Park Administration under john Hedges? How much money was put into capital spending on parks and facilities under Hedges watch?

Jeanine Pedersen from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 24th, 2013 7:54 AM

I am a property owner on the 500 block of South Ridgeland. Once again, VMA signs have magically shown up on the property line between my two-flat and the two-flats on either side (coincidentally blocking Anan signs from view). Neither we nor our neighbors requested these signs. This is the 2nd time in this election cycle. My husband and I have complained to your headquarters about this behavior in prior years. Ultimately you are responsible for electioneering done on your behalf. How do you justify this behavior?

Megan Dunn from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: March 22nd, 2013 8:48 AM

I won't spend my time focusing on someone's "negatives", instead I'll focus on positives. I was blessed to grow up in Oak Park, IL, I am certain of that. I am also certain that John Hedges, through his DECADES of service to this community, was a key player in creating & maintaining the community that provided me these blessings. Yes, there is work to be done, all of it is work John is more than qualified to do. Experience does matter, it's not the only thing, but it's a big thing!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 10:28 AM

If experience was the key to leadership, Barak Obama could not have been elected President of the United States. If experience was the key to economic development, Oak Park's revenue from commercial property tax would have soured and our taxes would be lower. If experience was the key to making an aging avenue into a thriving commercial district, Madison Ave would not be the disgrace it is. If experience was the key we would not have idle property at Forest and Lake, we would no have the Madison Highland project still lingering after six years, we would not be a bandaging 1990's website that has become the symbol of the village's failure to face the 21st Century. If experience was a magic formula, we would have money in the TIF funds, revenues that at least matched expense, and a village staff that would be the pride of Oak Park as it once was and infrastructure that works. Experience is meaningless if it cannot result in growth.


Posted: March 19th, 2013 12:43 AM

Too much of the same politics and the same party . My vote goes to Anan.

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