Brent Lewandowski (left) and George Popelka share a handshake on Election Day. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Brent Lewandowski (left) and George Popelka share a handshake on Election Day. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

Door opens for Lewandowski’s second term in Palos Heights

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BRENT LEWANDOWSKI

Brent Lewandowski feels good in the afternoon of April 4 and felt better that night when he unofficially won re-election to the Palos Heights City Council. 

By Jeff Vorva

On the afternoon of April 4, Brent Lewandowski got his garage door fixed after three weeks of inconvenience.

He was happy to get that task checked off his list.

That night, things got even better for him. The incumbent was the unofficial winner in the race for Palos Heights Third Ward alderman. According to the Cook County Clerk’s office, Lewandowski had 64.42 percent of the votes and won 277-153 over challenger George Popelka.

Results will not become official until Cook County releases the final totals in the coming weeks.

Lewandowski, 45, was quick to praise Popelka, 70, about the campaign.

“George is such a good dude,” Lewandowski said. “We spent all day together and I really enjoyed hanging out with him. I give the guy an awful lot of credit. He’s trying to get involved.

“It was a very civil campaign. There was none of that vitriol that was going on in other communities.”

Lewandowski, an interim executive director overseeing a $14 billion fund and a 20-year veteran of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, is looking forward to his second four-year stint with the city.

“Now, I have some time under my belt there are some things I would like to get started,” he said.

He said he wanted to focus in on developing the downtown district. He points to Pete’s Market coming into the long-empty Dominick’s building and buying not only the store but the whole parcel of buildings and a similar approach can work with spiffing up the downtown area.

“They immediately began working on the property to re-pave the sidewalks and fix the electric and work on the landscaping,” Lewandowski said of Pete’s face-lift. “In 2024, when Pete’s comes in, the whole corner will be improved.

“I see the same thing happening downtown. If we can attract these developments with reserve TIF funds, and the opportunity to increase parking space, that’s going to make it more attractive for the right kind of developers to come in.”

He said the “not so fun to talk about” topic of the infrastructure needs to be monitored closely. Recent increases in water and sewer rates for residents and businesses have drawn the ire of some, but Lewandowski said they are needed because the cost of maintaining the half-century-old infrastructure will be high.

“Yes, we have reserves, but those reserves will run out,” Lewandowski said. “To begin projects, you need the reserves and a sustainable revenue stream.”

He said he enjoyed the interaction with residents during the campaign and although some view Palos Heights as an elderly community, Lewandowski found it to be a mix.

“We have some older residents and younger families coming in,” he said. “Finding a way of bringing those demographics together will be big.”

Jeffrey Key (1st Ward), Robert Basso (2nd Ward) and Michael McGrogan all won re-election as all three ran unopposed.

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