Written by Bob Rakow
Two veteran Hickory Hills alderman are touting their experience as the primary reason for voters to return them to office in the April 7 election.
Aldermen John Szeszycki (2nd) and Scott Zimmerman (4th) are the only Hickory Hills officials being challenged in next month’s municipal races.
Mayor Mike Howley, City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone, City Treasurer Dan Schramm and Aldermen Mike McHugh (1st) and Tom McAvoy (3rd) are running unopposed.
Both incumbents point out that Hickory Hills lacks political controversy or polarizing issues that divide the eight-member council. Rather, aldermen work together for the most part on routine issues related to city services or finances, they said.
A look at the two contested races:
BOLD SUBHEAD -- 4th Ward: Zimmerman vs. Kelly
In the 4th Ward, Zimmerman is opposed by Colleen Kelly, who has political experience as a member of the Lyons Township Board.
Elected in 1999, Zimmerman is the senior member of the city council. He has Howley’s endorsement and maintains that his 15 years of experience qualifies him for another four-year term.
“(The city council) is very cohesive,” Zimmerman said. “We’re a good group of people who work well together.”
Kelly, 37, has been a Lyons Township trustee for four years. She said running for alderman is the next logical step in her ongoing community involvement.
“Everyone kind of knew it was coming,” said Kelly, a divorced mother of two.
“Being involved is very big for me. I’ve always been involved in the community,” said Kelly, a Hickory Hills resident since 2001.
Kelly was a member of the Indian Springs School District 109 school board prior to joining the township board. She recently was recognized as an Outstanding Woman Elected Official by Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown.
She added that residents routinely approach her with their “problems and concerns,” which she, in turn, brings to the city’s attention.
Asked why the residents do not approach Zimmerman instead, Kelly said “he was a bit unresponsive.”
Zimmerman chairs the council’s public works committee, but Kelly boasts experience in that area, she said, as chief operator for the West Suburban Water Commission, the agency that delivers water to the city.
Zimmerman denied that he’s not available to residents.
“I get back with people,” he said. “I don’t believe that is a fact.”
He also dismissed Kelly’s allegation that the city does not take advantage of services offered by Lyons Township. “I don’t see the township coming to the city,” he said.
Zimmerman added that unlike Kelly, he has not sought other public offices despite opportunities to do so.
“I’m not moving around. I’m sticking where I’m at,” he said.
He also criticized Kelly for deciding against sending her children to District 109 schools while she served on the school board.
Kelly’s children attend St. Patricia School. She is involved at the parish and attended the school.
Zimmerman, 51, was born in Hickory Hills. He and his wife, Debbie, have two children.
BIL headline -- 2nd Ward: Szeszycki vs. Mancuso
In the 2nd Ward, Szeszycki faces a challenge from political newcomer Joe Mancuso.
In the 2nd Ward, incumbent Szeszycki is a 12-year member of the council and chairman of the finance committee.
His view of serving on the city council is rather straightforward.
“The nuts and bolts are providing city services,” Szeszycki said.
He said his colleagues on the council encouraged him to seek re-election, especially because of his budget expertise.
“Every account we have is in the black,” Szeszycki said, adding that the council has worked diligently to do more with less.
As Gov. Bruce Rauner proposes significant cuts in the funds municipalities receive, budget issues will remain at the forefront, he added.
Szeszycki, 68, has lived in the city for 43 years and worked for many years as a firefighter/paramedic for the Roberts Park Fire Protection District.
He and his wife have five grown children and eight grandchildren.
He takes a philosophical attitude toward the upcoming election: “If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose.”
If he’s defeated, it will be at the hands of Joe Mancuso.
“We live in an incredible community, and I want to do my part by serving the residents of the 2nd Ward. I want to make this office less about the office and more about people. I want to represent your voice, your views and your concerns for improving our community,” Mancuso said in a press release announcing his candidacy.
Mancuso, 70, has no previous political experience, but hopes to fill that void by bringing new ideas to the council.
“I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I could make a positive impact,” said Mancuso, a 17-year resident of the city.
He’s proposed a city sponsored talent show for teens, a farmer’s market and a citywide garage sale, similar to the one held in Bridgeview. He also has proposed re-evaluate and improve the city’s Emergency Communication system or research a new more comprehensive system.
“I don’t have a record like the other guy so I have to come up with some things,” said Mancuso, who is retired.
Mancuso and his wife, Cheryl, have five grown children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild