Web Extra! Updated 11:16 p.m.

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During his first two years as River Forest village president, John Rigas will enjoy what outgoing president Frank Paris didn’t enjoy his last two years – a rock-solid majority of supportive trustees.

Rigas cruised to a decisive victory in Tuesday’s intense race for River Forest village president. With all 15 precincts reporting, Rigas held a 479-vote lead over sitting trustee Steve Hoke. Rigas will be sworn in May 11, replacing four-term President Frank Paris, who is retiring.

James Winikates led all trustee candidates with 1,419 votes, Catherine Adduci tallied 1,260 and Mike Gibbs took 1,114, edging Rick Gillis by nine votes. Incumbent Trustee Russ Nummer received 1,040.

The 2,695 votes cast represent the largest turnout in recent village board election history, more than the previous high-water mark of 2,496 in the 1989 village board race.

The election effectively ends two years of chronic battles and heated exchanges, verging on physical altercations between trustees and President Paris over procedural issues and control of board processes.

Rigas a former village trustee, who was referred to by opponents as “a Paris clone” and “Paris lite,” alternately chafed and scoffed at that characterization. As he has during the campaign, Tuesday he vowed to run the board openly and equitably.

“I run a board completely different than a lot of people do,” he said. “I let everyone talk, express their views, and whoever wins, the rest support them.”

Rigas, who is wrapping up two terms on the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School, said his first order of business would be to “sit down as a board and talk about the direction we want to go.”

The top vote-getter as trustee threw his support behind the president-elect and said he was anxious to work with him.

“I’m happy for John,” said Winikates. “I think he’ll be a great guy to work with. And I’ll tell him when I don’t agree with him.”

The last comment referenced an oft-repeated criticism that the three trustee candidates running with Rigas would vote in lock-step with him, as did several trustees with Paris.

Hoke, looking tired and disappointed, was both congratulatory and defiant.

“I congratulate John. I hope he does a great job for the village,” said Hoke, who did not back off his contention that Rigas and supporters such as Cathy Adduci represented the local face of machine politics in River Forest. He expressed particular frustration that state politicians Sen. Don Harmon, who represents River Forest, and Elmwood Park state Rep. Skip Saviano, who does not, sent out glossy full-color mailers endorsing the Rigas slate in general, and Adduci in particular.

“When Don Harmon sends out a village-wide mailing supporting the opposition, it’s a really hard mountain to climb,” said Hoke.

Adduci applauded the campaign her slate waged during a victory party Tuesday evening at Kevil’s in Forest Park. “I think I kept everything above board. We ran on the issues,” she said. Taking a slap at Hoke, she said, “I’m glad River Forest voted on the issues, and not on personal vendettas.”

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