Worth mayor will return for second term after defeating Keller

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

In a hotly contested race in Worth, incumbent Mayor Mary Werner defeated her opponent Randy Keller, the former mayor she was victorious against four years ago.

With seven of seven precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, Werner collected 1,068 votes for 59.87 percent. Keller had 716 votes for 40.13 percent.

“The residents have spoken and they wish to continue moving forward with a vision for Worth,” said Trustee Kevin Ryan about Werner’s victory.

Werner, who will now serve a second term, gathered with her supporters on Tuesday night at the Chieftain Pub awaiting the election results.

“I am grateful to the residents of Worth who were able to see through all the mudslinging taking place during the campaign and who voted on my accomplishments and vision for the future of Worth.”

In earlier comments at a Candidates Night held on March 14, Werner had stated that her vision for Worth was to see the Lucas Berg Preserve property developed into one of the greatest economic development Worth has ever seen. She said she envisioned sitting on a patio of a restaurant on 111th street, one day in the future, enjoying a beautiful view of the lake and wildlife area of the Lucas Berg site.

Keller did not respond to a call seeking a comment on the election results.

Village Clerk Bonnie Price, who was running unopposed for a fifth term, garnered the highest number of all the candidates with a grand total of 1,527 votes as of Wednesday morning.

Price, who is a Certified Municipal Clerk, has served as clerk in Worth since 2001 and has served under three mayors.

Victor in the race for the one open trustee position was Brad Urban, a long-time Worth resident who served on the Worth Park District Board of Directors for six years. He is a commander at the Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post. He had the second highest number of votes with 1,243.

Urban said he wanted to thank his wife, family, friends and residents for their trust in him.

“My goal is to do the best I can where ever the mayor assigns me. I will do my best, I will be honest and I will work hard for the village,” Urban said.

His opponent, Bahira Karim, a first-time candidate, is a 27-year resident of Worth who has worked in the Worth school district for 19 years. She received 771 votes as of Wednesday morning.

Karim said she was pleased with the show of support from the community for all she has accomplished.

“I have spent 19 years at the school, three years on the library board and have served as a translator for the police department for many years,” Karim said. “This was my first time as a candidate, and the first time an Arabic woman has run for office in the village.”

She believes that the Village of Worth is not open to diversity.

”I ran a clean race, as an independent. I went door-to-door and worked very long hours. I reached out to people and I heard many concerns about our village,” Karim said. “I encouraged people to go to the village board meetings where they could be heard and where they could speak up about their concerns.”

She explained that her community is new to getting engaged in politics, but in the future there will be more involvement of the Arabic community.

“I will not stop. I will not disappoint those who voted for me. My plan was to be the voice of those who can’t speak for themselves,” Karim said. “They trust me and look up to me because they can talk to me and I understand their needs. As long as I am here, I will continue to work for them,” she said.

Incumbent trustee Rich Dziedzic will return for a third term with 1,161 votes.

“From a trustee’s perspective I think it was a good election. While I was pleased to be one of the top three vote-getters, I think we had four good candidates. I am happy to have another four years to serve the village,” Dziedzic said.

Tedd Muersch Jr. was elected to his second term with 1,151 votes as of Wednesday morning. He did not respond to a call after the election results were announced. But earlier at a Candidates Night he emphasized that he was anxious to continue the improvement of the Water’s Edge Golf Course he oversees as the trustee liaison.

In Evergreen Park, all candidates were running unopposed, with one open trustee position to be filled due to Trustee Daniel McKeown choosing not to run again. Nominated to his position was Norm Anderson, a long-time Evergreen Park resident who has served as a Fire and Police Commissioner for the last 17 years. He is currently chairman of the Commission.

Returning for another term are Mayor James Sexton, Village Clerk, Cathy Aparo and Trustees Carol Kyle and Mark Phelan.

Tokar edges two challengers to win second term in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar fended off two challengers to win a second term in office on Tuesday, but there will be major changes on the board of trustees because the two trustee candidates who ran with him also won, as did a third independent candidate.

Tokar received 35.68 percent of the votes (714), with Fran Coglianese, who headed up the Results Now ticket, coming in second with 32.38 percent (648). Sally Durkin, running independently, came in close behind her with 639 votes (31.93 percent).

Coglianese and Durkin are both trustees, and Durkin’s term is up so she will be stepping down when the new board is sworn in in May. Two current trustees, Bruce Quintos and Amanda Cardin, ran for re-election on the Results Now ticket, but they lost as well, as did Scott Schaal, the third trustee candidate on that ticket.

According to unofficial final tallies from the Cook County Clerk’s office, the top vote-getter among the trustee candidates was independent Lisel Kwartnik, who received 20.82 percent (1,025), followed by Tokar allies Ed Kowalski with 18.43 percent (907 votes) and Deb Pyznarski with 17.31 (852 votes), who all won seats.

Quintos, who has been a trustee since 2003, was running in his fifth election, but fell short this time with 15.32 percent (752 votes). Cardin lost her bid for a second term with 14.12 percent (695), followed by retired police officer Scott Schaal, who received 14 percent (698 votes).

Even incumbent Village Clerk George Schleyer, who ran for a second term as part of the Results Now team, lost to Barbara Harrison, an independent. The Chicago Ridge native said she would devote more time to office than Schleyer did.

“I’m ready and looking forward to the challenge,” said Harrison, who won with 61.18 percent (1,179) to 38.82 percent (748 votes) for Schleyer.

“I’m glad the campaign is over. We tried to stay positive. Everything we put out there was truthful,” said Tokar. “It was the residents’ turn to speak, and I think we were vindicated because all independents won.”

The mayor, with his fiancée Denise Ridley, and son, Charlie, celebrated with Pyznarski and Kowalski and their supporters, including Trustee Jack Lind at The Grove bar following the election.

“This guy is great. We are going to continue to do great things for the village of Chicago Ridge,” said Lind.

“I ran a good campaign. I’m proud of that. I can sleep at night. Some people tried to bring private family issues into this campaign and that was not right.” said Pyznarski. Currently the village treasurer, she will step down from that role to take her seat on the board of trustees now.

“I am looking forward to a very productive term. We’re going to get a lot of things done and continue to move this village forward,” she said.

Earlier in the day, when it was drizzling rain, all three Chicago Ridge mayoral candidates, as well as Pyznarski, Kwartnik and Cardin, milled outside Ridge Central School chatting with voters and dodging raindrops. All the races were contentious this year, and the candidates all seemed happy the hard-fought campaigns were over, and Election Day had arrived.

Durkin, who held her last meet-and-greet on Sunday, said she was happy with her campaign, no matter how it turned out in the end.

“We’ve done everything we could. My sole reason for getting in this race was to make things better in Chicago Ridge,” she said.

“I feel good about the campaign. People have been very welcoming. But the first thing I am going to do when it is all over is sleep,” said Coglianese, only half-jokingly.

Bury and allies are victorious in Oak Lawn election

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

sandra bury and sign photo 4-6

Photo by Joe Boyle

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury defeated challenger Bob Streit in Tuesday's election.


Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury had a lot more than just her own victory to celebrate at her post-election party on Tuesday at The Whistle bar.

Following a very heated race against Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), who sought to deny her a second term in office, Bury ended up winning by a large margin. And all three trustee candidates allied with her won their seats as well, denying Streit’s team any victory.

With all votes tallied, according to the Cook County Clerk’s office, Bury won with 59.42 percent of the votes cast (5,393) to 40.58 percent for Streit (3,683).

“This is a big, big victory for Oak Lawn. The voters saw through the negativity and they want to end that,” said the mayor, an optometrist who owns Complete Vision Care in the village.

Streit was accused of making unfounded accusations against valuable businesses in campaign material, and stirring up fears about public safety by focusing on a recent spike in armed robberies and other violent incidents rather than overall downward trends in crime.

“I want to thank everyone who came out to vote. Thank God for the people of Oak Lawn. They got our message. I just want to thank them all,” she said.

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) won his bid for a fourth term in office with 71.42 percent of the votes (982) to 28.58 percent (393) for Glenn Schlesser, a former 911 dispatcher in the village. His was the widest victory of all the trustees.

“I’m a guy from the neighborhood. We’re not perfect but we’re getting better,” said Olejniczak at the victory party. “I care so much about this village, and I am honored to be elected again.

Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) also won re-election to a second term in office. According to unofficial results, he received 65.46 percent of the votes (889) to 34.54 percent (469) for John Koss, another ally of Streit.

The winner of the 6th District seat, left open when Mike Carberry decided not to run for re-election, is a familiar face. Former trustee and Bury adviser Thomas Phelan regained the seat he stepped down from four years ago. He received 59.75 percent of the votes (1,079) to 40.25 percent (727) for Jozettemarie Palermo.

Village Clerk Jane Quinlan ran unopposed for election to her fourth term in office.

“It was a long five-month campaign. I think the results are very productive for the village of Oak Lawn. I am looking forward to a lot of good things happening in these next four years,” said Vorderer.

“This whole team is great to work with. How great is it to be able to run with such a great group of people,” said Bury.

“I am going to take one day off, and then get back to taking care of the people’s business,” said the mayor. “It is time to get rid of the negative messages and replace it with a positive message about this village.”

This Easter egg hunt attracts participants on four legs

  • Written by Kelly White

Easter egg hunts are not exclusively set aside for children anymore.

Move over kids, make way for the family dogs.

The Oak Lawn Park District organized the first ever Dog’ Gone Easter Egg Hunt and nearly 50 pooches joined in on the fun of finding treat-filled colored Easter eggs that were scattered throughout Bailey’s Crossing Dog Park, 9910 S. Melvina Ave., Oak Lawn..

“I don’t have children, so my dog is my baby,” said Catie Fadden, of Hometown.

“Once we found out there was a dog Easter egg hunt, we were in right away,” said Steve Szymczak, 27, of Palos Hills. “Our dog is very energetic, social and loves the outdoors.”

The dog Szymczak was referring to was his 1-year-old golden retriever, Freedom, and a lot of other attendee’s agreed with Szymczak’s perspective.

“It’s different, something fun to do and it gets the dogs out of the house,” said Mike Dragon, of Oak Lawn, who brought his 3-year-old pitbull mix, Eddie, to the hunt.

“This is our first time participating in an Easter egg hunt for dogs, and we’re really excited about it,” said Tracie Marcosa, of Evergreen Park, who brought along her 8-year-old black labrador/border collie mix, Lucky.

“There is a large dog-loving community in Oak Lawn and its surrounding areas,” said Jacqueline Canty, special recreation and veteran services supervisor and front desk manager at Oak Lawn’s Oak View Center. “We felt that this event allowed for our patrons to celebrate Easter with their pet in a non-traditional way. It was very family-friendly and the dogs were able to have a little fun in the park. The event also provided exposure to the Oak Lawn Park District and Bailey’s Crossing Dog Park.”

The funds raised from the $5 registration were used to cover the event and buy necessary supplies, consisting of plastic Easter eggs, organic dog treats to stuff the eggs and prizes for raffles. Attendees were also asked by the park district to bring in food and toys to be donated to local animal shelters.

“We wanted to be sure to keep the event at a low cost for attendees,” Canty said. “We also wanted it to be a special event for dogs and their people in the spring. Our annual egg hunt for children is wildly successful, so we figured dog lovers would like this event.”

The annual children’s Oak Lawn Easter Egg Hunt has been taking place for over 15 years at Stony Creek Golf Course, according to Canty.

Owners were encouraged to dress their pets in a costume ranging from superheroes to butterflies. Some pet owners even decided to match their canine. Awards were given out to best costume to one small dog and one large dog, along with an award for being able to do the most tricks in 30 seconds. An award was also presented by the Oak Lawn Park District to a pet that completed the obstacle course

The best costume for a large dog went to Bacon, a yellow Labrador who was dressed as a yellow Easter chick. The owner, Elyssa Wolfe, 19, of Evergreen Park, could not be prouder.

“Bacon is a great dog; he loves the outdoors and being around people,” Wolfe said. “When I heard there was going to be a costume contest, we were in.”

Other than every dog being on a leash, there were no set rules in the amount of eggs a dog could sniff out. Park district officials were hoping for each dog involved in the hunt to find about six eggs each.

Five park district employees supervised the event. Afterwards, attendees were able to shop and gain information from local area vendors.

Oak Lawn children and parents take a walk and learn about tornados

  • Written by Kelly White

emily kenny and storywalk photo 4-6

Photo by Kelly White

Emily Kenny, Youth Services Associate at the Oak Lawn Library, points to“Twister” by Darleen Bailey Bead at the Oak Lawn “Twister StoryWalk” on Friday afternoon at Lake Shore Park in Oak Lawn.

Local children recently received a history lesson about tornados, images that many Oak Lawn residents know about all too well.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 tornado that caused heavy damage to Oak Lawn that resulted in injuries and deaths, the Oak Lawn Library and Oak Lawn Park District partnered to open up the outdoor “Twister StoryWalk” at Lake Shore Park.

Children and parents gathered at the park to read StoryWalk’s spring book “Twister” by Darleen Bailey Bead. Children were able to make a twister craft out of paper and learn about the weather phenomenon. Children and parents learned about what a tornado is and why it occurs.

Although the book is not reflective of the 1967 Oak Lawn tornado, it provided information that children are able to understand.

“My kids are fascinated with science,” said Siobhan McLoughlin, of Oak Lawn. “As soon as we heard about this, we knew we had to be here.”

McLoughlin attended with her 4-year-old twin boys, Darian and Toryn Mojiri, who were both excited to learn about tornados.

“The 1967 tornado is the definitive event in Oak Lawn’s history,” said Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator at the Oak Lawn Library. “The storm not only took a huge physical toll on the village, but impacted the lives of thousands of residents, many whom still carry memories from that day. Because of this, I believe it is important to convey the story of the tornado to those who were not there to witness its devastation first hand. Now that 50 years have passed, fewer and fewer residents from that time period remain, making our job of preserving the storm’s history and sharing its story event more important.”

The 1967 Oak Lawn tornado outbreak was a destructive tornado outbreak and severe weather event that occurred on April 21, 1967. It was the most notable tornado outbreak of 1967 and one of the most notable to occur in the Chicago area, according to Korst.

“As we head into tornado season, this event raises awareness and educates participants on the dangers of tornadoes, including the history of the 1967 tornado in Oak Lawn, and different safety tips that can be used to save lives,” said David MacDonald, Oak Lawn Park District’s recreation supervisor.

StoryWalk is an innovative way for both children and adults to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time, while encouraging physical activity. Laminated pages from a children’s picture book are installed along an outdoor path throughout the park. As children walk the path they are directed to the next page in the story. The pages are durable to remain standing and readable during any weather conditions.

“We absolutely love the StoryWalk,” said Oak Lawn resident Colleen Stedman. “It’s very cold out today, but my kids really wanted to go. They love reading and the outdoors, so it’s the perfect combination for us.”

“This is cool,” Stedman’s 5-year-old son, Michael, said, as he colored in a paper tornado. “It’s fun to learn about the weather.”

The StoryWalk book was chosen by the Oak Lawn Public Library and was read out loud to children by Emily Kenny, Youth Services Associate. The book is changed four times a year along the Lake Shore Park trail, 9610 E. Lake Shore Drive, with a story that fits each season.

“I hope that the children will want to learn more about tornadoes and respect the power of this natural phenomenon,” Kenny said. “Many children in the area have family who were affected by the 1967 tornado. This is a great opportunity for the younger generation to learn from their elders. Also, tornadoes touch down every year in Illinois and some close to Chicagoland. It is easier to learn how to be prepared for something that could truly happen to you in real life.”