Hubert Hermanek Jr. will seek a second term as mayor of North Riverside, and he’s joined on a slate of candidates that includes three people, two of whom are newcomers to local government.
Hermanek, who was elected mayor in 2013 after serving as a trustee for four years, tops the slate put forward by the VIP Party, which has dominated the North Riverside Village Board for a generation.
He’s joined by three trustee candidates, including incumbent Joseph Mengoni, who seeks a second consecutive term. Also slated by VIP are a pair of longtime North Riverside residents who are newcomers to the political scene, Theresa “Terri” Sarro and Fernando Flores.
Kathy Ranieri is also on the slate, seeking re-election as village clerk.
“I think there have been many positive accomplishments in the past four years,” Hermanek said. “I think the village is moving in a positive direction and I’d like to see it continue.”
Among the accomplishments Hermanek has shepherded through to completion or near completion is an overhaul of the village’s financial practices, including ending village subsidies for water and waste hauling, ending the post-employment lifetime health care insurance for retired village employees, moving new employees of a “Cadillac” health insurance plan into more affordable plans, and inking a long-term contract with two of its three union bargaining units.
North Riverside is just completing the largest one-time street improvement project in village history and the construction of a bike path connecting North Riverside and Riverside-Brookfield High School.
“Things we kicked down the road in the past weren’t going to be kicked anymore,” Hermanek said. “There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made and this board had the guts to make them.”
Mengoni is vice president of adult residential and clinical services at UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago, which serves adults with disabilities. He served previously as a North Riverside Public Library District trustee and a past chairman and board member of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission.
As a member of the village board, Mengoni chairs the board’s police and fire committee, which has been in the middle of some of the most explosive issues facing the board in the past four years.
For the past two years, the village administration has been attempting to get a court order that would allow it to privatize the fire department, a process that continues to drag on amid dueling complaints of unfair labor practices with the Illinois Labor Relations Board.
The privatization effort, led by Hermanek, went hand in hand with the village’s failure to adequately fund police and fire pensions, a failure the village has contended, is due to fire pension obligations being an unsustainable budget item.
The 2015 election was in some ways a referendum on the administration’s efforts at privatization, with Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos slating a group of trustee candidates under the banner of Save Our Firefighters. While only Demopoulos was elected from that slate, VIP sealed the other two spots only late on election night when the results of the final precinct came in.
Privatization of the fire department has tended to overshadow other things the village board has accomplished in the last four years, Mengoni said.
“We did a lot of good but there are still some lingering shadows regarding the issue of the fire department,” Mengoni said. “We’re at the point where let’s see where we can agree with the fire department to continue on and make sure they have the people they need.”
Sarro has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Illinois Chicago and an MBA from Dominican University. She works in accounts receivable for Parathon Recovery Services but has been active locally with the Komarek School PTA, Little League and as a block captain.
She has worked closely with Ranieri on a number of events and fundraisers at Komarek, including the VIP Costumes for a Cause fundraiser in 2015 that raised money to provide Thanksgiving dinners to needy North Riverside families.
He husband, Al Sarro, is vice president of the Komarek School District 94 Board of Education.
“I feel I know a lot of members of this community and feel I’d be a good voice on the board,” Sarro said. “I know the needs and wants of the town and people are comfortable talking to me.”
Sarro said she would relish a chance to be part of the board committee overseeing recreation, an area where she feels her marketing background would be an asset.
Flores, a resident of North Riverside for 16 years, is an electrical inspector who has been at ComEd for 36 years. He’s also an active member of Mater Christi Church and is a member of HONR, the Hispanics of North Riverside group formed in 2015 to reach out to the village’s sizable Hispanic community.