election day april 4 2023

Court’s in session for Palos Park mayoral candidates

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By Jeff Vorva

Yes, they are lawyers. And they know how to give a closing argument.

Longtime Palos Park Commissioner Nicole Milovich-Walters and Ronette Leal McCarthy are a pair of lawyers seeking the job as mayor to take over for John Mahoney, also a lawyer, who is retiring and did not seek a fifth term.  The election is April 4.

The two candidates engaged in a debate on March 14 at Stagg High School and when it came time for their last two minutes to summarize their credentials, both gave strong arguments with Milovich-Walters stressing her 16 years of experience as a commissioner while McCarthy hammered home a need for change.

Milovich-Walters had her final summary first.

WALTERS

Nicole Milovich-Walters says that being a commissioner is imperative to doing the job of mayor.

“Experience matters,” she said. “Experience is vital for doing the job of mayor. And the ability to work as a team for the best interest of the residents is crucial.

“Only once in Palos Park history was there a mayor who had not been a commissioner first. That was in 1951 when we had approximately 850 residents. Now, with nearly 5,000 residents, the job has changed.”

She said that being a commissioner is imperative to doing the job of mayor.

“On Day 1, I am rolling without the need for training wheels,” she said. “I have more experience than anyone who has ever run for the position for mayor of Palos Park.”

Miliovich-Walters said that she has been endorsed by every living past mayor in the village.

“It takes a mayor to know a mayor, she said.

She wrapped up with: “My experience is relevant and abundant. My ability to work with a team is proven and effective. This is why I am qualified to be your next mayor of Palos Park.”

MCCARTHY

Ronette Leal McCarthy said she wants to bring democracy back to Palos Park. Photos by Jeff Vorva

Riding the unicycle

McCarthy closed with a speech that had some improvisation in it as the “training wheels” line did not go unnoticed.

“First off, I want to thank my opponent for helping you see why change is needed,” McCarthy said. “I do not know why there is a thought that it has to be done a certain way. That is not democracy. That is not the democratic way. We do not tap people on shoulders to become a committee member or a commissioner or a mayor. Now, I’ve always liked being No. 1 but I will take that second mayor in the history of Palos Park position and gladly serve as mayor not having been a commissioner before.”

She said she does have experience working within the village and has worked with “countless” villages and municipalities in the area.

“That in itself has given me a wealth of information in regards to golf course redevelopment, writing ordinances, zoning laws, not cutting down trees,” McCarthy said. “I have access to all of those professionals throughout the Chicagoland area. I can pick up a telephone and reach out and get some advice.”

McCarthy said that there is currently 60 years of experience on the council and if she wins, there will still be 44 years of collective knowledge.

“The staff will be remaining the same,” she said. “That doesn’t change. I’m not going to need training wheels. I’m ready to get on a unicycle and ride my way around Palos Park – that would be a sight to see if I was on a unicycle now that I think about it – but it would allow the village residents to come out and talk more collaboratively by seeing that.”

Challenges ahead

McCarthy, 51, is an attorney with the Leal McCarthy law group LLC since January 2008, and she said one of the biggest challenges in Palos Park right now is to get the council to be a little more resident-friendly.

A recent controversy regarding a new parking expansion at Wu’s House restaurant has caused strife at committee meetings and some of that spilled over to a Feb. 27 council meeting.

“We are really blessed to live in such an amazing community known as the Village of Palos Park,” she said. “The challenges to some may not seem large to people in other communities.

“One of the largest challenges that has been exhibited to me over the last months is the lack of residents’ voices. The lack of being heard. The lack of feeling that you are actually a part of our governance.”

She said voices are not being heard.

“Democracy is pretty,” McCarthy said. “Democracy is the voice of our residents. And allowing our residents to feel a part of the local municipal government, to me, is one of the most significant challenges that we have. We have 11 committees in the Village of Palos Park. Everything from zoning, the library, recreation and historic preservation.

“Currently, five of those boards have vacancies. Five. Five boards should not have vacancies in the Village of Palos Park. Village of Palos Park residents should feel greeted and welcome when they come to a board meeting. They should not be told that they cannot have a voice and that they cannot talk as has been exhibited at the board meetings recently.”

She said her top priority is to listen to the residents’ concerns.

“In order to advance our village, in order to have it grow and see into the future, we do need to work together as a community and make sure that democracy is first and foremost,” she said.

Milovich-Walters, 54, is the president and CEO of the Walters Law Group Ltd., and owns a pre-employment screening company.

She said there are a group of challenges facing Palos Park that she wants to tackle.

“We need to advance our progress,” Milovich-Walters said. “Public safety is paramount in Palos Park. We spend half our budget to support mandated training, equipment and salaries. And we have a small budget to deal with.

“Our western annexation is very critical to growing our businesses and supporting our tax base. But we want to do all of that in keeping the character of the village.”

She is hitting hard on seniors in the village and expanding programs and organizations for seniors.

She also wants to welcome new residents with open arms.

“The biggest thing I would like to do is create a community-based organization that will greet new residents and will share with them the resources about our businesses, our school, our community events,” Milovich-Walters said.

“These volunteers would go to their homes, answer their questions and ensure that they feel a part of the community. Being inclusive is important. Keeping our gem of Palos Park the pride of the southwest suburbs of Chicago is paramount to our way of life.”

1 Comment

  1. Catherine O’Malley on April 1, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Respect Matters: Vote for Ronette McCarthy
    I am appalled at the disrespect and antagonism that two longtime Palos Park commissioners showed mayoral candidate Ronette McCarthy and other Palos Park residents who expressed concern at the Feb. 27 council meeting. Commissioner Reed shook his head in disgust when Ronette began speaking and called residents “children” who were “speaking out of turn “ and told them to “shut the hell up” and “pull up their big boy and big girl britches.” Commissioner Polk called residents “homies.” The other commissioners, including mayoral candidate Nicole Milovich-Walters and retiring Mayor John Mahoney, were completely silent when they heard this disrespect. Palos Park residents deserve to be treated with respect by our elected officials. A vote for Ronette is a vote for respect. Respect matters.



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