Community Briefs

Chicago Ridge
Images of the Ridge
  Chicago Ridge will have its history encapsulated in a photographic history book being compiled by two residents and the assistant director of the Chicago Ridge Public Library.
  Village residents Kathy McSwain and Ed Maurer, and library assistant director Kathryn Sofianos are seeking help from the community to put together their book to be published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series. The trio is seeking interviews with residents as well as photos and other historical information about Chicago Ridge.
  “We think this book is going to be a great book about Chicago Ridge,” Maurer told the Village Board at a meeting last month.
  The proceeds from book sales will go to the Friends of the Chicago Ridge Library and the nonprofit organization Transitions, which provides counseling services for youths.
  Arcadia last year published books about both Worth and Oak Lawn. The Worth book was compiled by Worth Historical Museum curator Colleen McElroy, while Oak Lawn’s was compiled by Oak Lawn Public Library local history coordinator Kevin Korst.
— Kevin Coyne

Oak Lawn police chief retires

Bill Villanova

By Laura Bollin

  The police chief in Oak Lawn worked his final day behind the badge last week after 36 years with the village including the past six as its top cop.
  Bill Villanova received two standing ovations at the Oak Lawn Village Board’s meeting March 26. Villanova’s last day on the job was April 1.
  Mayor Dave Heilmann at the meeting last month proclaimed March 28 Bill Villanova Day in recognition of the former chief’s service to the village.
  Heilmann has not yet named a replacement for Villanova.
  Villanova’s 36-year career included the honor of being named Illinois’ police chief of the year in 2012. He joined the Oak Lawn Police Department in 1977 as a patrol officer, was promoted to lieutenant in 2003 and was named chief of detectives in 2004. He was promoted to chief in 2006 to replace Robert Smith.
  “I can still remember when you were standing here and [Villanova’s wife] Linda was pinning on the star,” Heilmann said, remembering when Villanova was promoted to chief. “It seems like it just happened. For everything you did for all of our families, thank you. You’re a hell of a chief.”
  Oak Lawn village Clerk Jane Quinlan, who became a close friend of Villanova’s, thanked him for his service and recounted how they would chat in her office at the start of every morning.
  “You have done a wonderful job for us,” Quinlan said. “We are very lucky to have Bill in this town.”
  Villanova gave a short speech, and got choked up several times while thanking the board, his family and the police officers he led.
  “I couldn’t be prouder leading this group of men and women,” Villanova said. “This is a great police department. It means a lot to me to know this department had your support, and the support will continue.
  “Being the chief, you get all the praise when things go great and all the headaches when things don’t go so great. But the guys who get the credit are standing behind me in the police department.”
  Villanova said the final week of March was important for him. He began working for Oak Lawn on March 26, after a stint at a Chevrolet dealership. His best day on the job was last month, when a woman whose daughter he helped 20 years ago expressed her thanks. The girl was 13 when Villanova helped her enter a rehabilitation program and set her up with a doctor, he explained.
  “I was at a public safety meeting with the mayor, and after the meeting a woman came up to me and said, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but you saved my daughter’s life,’” he said. “The woman is now 33 years old and married. It is moments like that when you touch someone’s life and not even realize it.”
  Villanova said he plans to “chill out a little” during his retirement. He and his wife are going to travel to Texas to visit some friends, and watch NASCAR races, something both enjoy. His home, however, is Oak Lawn.
  “I’m not going to be far away,” Villanova said. “I’ll be watching. It’ll be like two popes. We’re in good hands.
“Thank you. It’s been a great ride. This is the greatest show on Earth.”

Half marathon aims high: for 2,000 runners

First Midwest Half Marathon organizers Jeff Prestinario (left) and Mel Diab are hoping that the May 5 running of the annual race will draw 2,000 entrants. Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva

  The sixth First Midwest Bank Half Marathon is heading into the final stretch of trying to reach its goal of 2,000 runners for the first time in its history.
  Race founder Mel Diab said at last Friday’s committee meeting that approximately 1,700 runners have signed up so far for the May 5 race, which will be run in Palos Heights and Palos Park. Last year, a record 1,638 athletes participated.
  Diab is crossing his fingers the event will fill out to its 2,000 capacity. He praised the committee members for all their work throughout the years to get to this point.
  “When we thought about putting on this race, I never dreamt we would have 2,000 runners coming into Palos Heights for this race,” Diab said. “And it’s amazing how the community gets behind this race. And the money we raised – more than $100,000 for four worthy causes. It’s become a jewel in Palos Heights.
  “We wanted to bring a major race into the southwest suburbs and we did. There are a lot of races following after our lead. I never thought it would be this big and this well-run.”
  Diab said so far 200 runners are from Chicago, 175 from Orland Park, 160 from Tinley Park, 75 from Palos Heights and 68 from Oak Lawn. There are 86 runners from out of state and two from out of the country representing Norway and Mexico.
  • Race organizers are cracking down on slow runners this year.
  The race starts at 7:30 a.m. and is supposed to end at 10:30. Last year, 75 runners had times above the 3-hour mark.
  “We’re getting more and more stragglers and it’s taking too much time,” race organizer Jeff Prestinario said. “We had complaints from residents of Palos Park. There are more and more walkers. People are still coming through Palos Park after 10:30 and people want to be able to get in and out of their neighborhoods.
  “The race lasts three hours and that’s what people should prepare for.”
  At 10:45 a.m., the race will have two sweeper vans pick up those who are still on the course.
  Those still on the course who are within 15 minutes of the finish line at 10:45 will be allowed to finish the race, Prestinario said. “We’re going to give a little leeway, yet we’re going to be firm when those sweeping vans come along.”
  • Diab was interested to see what the weather would be like on May 5.
  “It’s too far in advance to predict, but we kind of looked at it anyway,” he said. “It looks like it will be in the mid-50s, which is great. But that can change.

”Number of athletes who participated in the first five half marathons.

2008 — 1,365
2009 — 1,120
2010 — 1,427
2011 — 1,636
2012 — 1,638



Two incumbents in, one out on Moraine Valley Board

By Laura Bollin

The Moraine Valley Community College board of trustees will have some new faces on its board.

Tom Cunningham defeated incumbent Trustee Andrea Ramirez-Justin and Joseph A. Skibinski for the one two-year term seat on the board. Unofficial results on the Cook County clerk’s website showed Cunningham with 17,576 votes out of 50,724 votes to Skibinski’s 11,964 and Ramirez-Justin’s 10,761.

Three six-year term seats were also up on the board. Incumbents Sandra S. Wagner and Joseph Murphy as well as Eileen M. O’Sullivan were elected to those seats. Murphy, of Blue Island, finished 12 votes ahead of fourth-place finisher John Donahue.

O’Sullivan was the top vote-getter with 23,063, while Wagner of Palos Hills finished with 20,591 and Murphy tallied 18,309. Donahue garnered 18,296 votes.

Orland Park resident Ricardo Fernandez finished last out of seven candidates with 8,557 votes. The defeat marked the third election day defeat in the past year for Fernandez, who also lost a bid last spring for Republican nomination in the state’s 18th Senate District, and another last November as the Republican candidate in the state’s 35th House District.

Voter turnout in the district was 20.6 percent, according to the clerk’s site.

Opposition party takes seven of eight seats on Worth Township Board

Incumbents led by Evergreen's Jack Murphy lose big

By Jason Maholy

An upstart group of politicians that spent a quarter-million dollars in its attempt to oust the ruling party on the Worth Township Board nearly swept away the old contingent on Tuesday.

The Worth Township Community First Party, led by township president candidate Kevin Hughes, took seven of eight seats up for election, according to unofficial results on the Cook County clerk's website. The ticket ousted six incumbents from the United Party of Worth Township including President John “Jack” Murphy of Evergreen Park, Assessor John Toscas of Crestwood and Highway Commissioner Steve Loulousis. The Community First Party also won three of four trustee spots and the township clerk’s seat.

With all 102 precincts reporting, Hughes defeated Murphy 11,300 votes (52 percent) to 10,253 votes (48 percent) for president. Community First clerk candidate Katie Elwood received 12,237 votes (58 percent) to sitting Clerk Roger Benson’s 9,042 votes (42 percent). Benson was appointed clerk last year to replace the late Bud Gavin.

Community First Party assessor candidate John Dietrick topped the incumbent Toscas 10,913 votes (51 percent) to 10,326 votes (49 percent), while Ed Moody of Chicago Ridge defeated Steve Loulousis of Oak Lawn 11,736 votes (55 percent) to 9,531 votes (45 percent) in the race for highway commissioner.

Trustee seats went to Community First Party members Theresa Roche, Patrick Hanlon and Richard Lewandowski. Michael Mahoney was the lone Unity Party member to win, finishing second in the trustee race with 10,469 votes (13.4 percent). Roche was the leading vote-getter with 10,657 (13.6 percent), while Hanlon was third with 10,173 (13 percent) and Lewandowski fourth with 10,042 (12.8 percent).

Finishing on the outside looking in was incumbent trustee Jack Lind of Chicago Ridge as well as David Walsh and Kelly Houlihan.

Voter turnout for the Worth Township race was among the highest in the area at 26.5 percent.