Joseph Mengoni assumed office as North Riverside’s mayor May 3, receiving a standing ovation after swearing the oath of office in front of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Joanne Rosado and a gymnasium crowded with family members and political supporters.
He did it after presiding over his last village board meeting as a trustee, having been appointed by his fellow trustees as president-pro-tem in the absence of outgoing two-term Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr., who did not attend either of the two board meetings scheduled after the April 6 election, where Hermanek finished third behind Mengoni and Trustee Marybelle Mandel.
Hermanek told the Landmark he was instead celebrating his mother’s 89th birthday. Mengoni said he found out Hermanek was going to be a no-show only when he arrived at the North Riverside Village Commons for the board meeting and swearing-in ceremony for himself, Clerk Kathy Ranieri and trustees Jason Bianco, Fernando Flores and Terri Sarro.
“I expected him not to come,” said Mengoni of Hermanek after he was sworn in.
Hermanek in comments to the Landmark prior to the May 3 ceremony made clear he was still stung by his defeat and by the fact that the village’s political establishment, the former VIP members, community supporters and financial backers, had abandoned him.
Former Mayor Richard Scheck, who formerly backed Hermanek in his earlier runs for trustee and mayor, was the largest single financial supporter of the North Riverside United Party slate that swept the election. He was among those standing to applaud Mengoni and his slate mates on May 3.
“Most importantly I want to thank our citizens and residents, those who are here and those who are watching on Zoom,” Mengoni said. “I want to congratulate the trustees and clerk this evening and our dedicated team. We will work closely with our staff and provide the highest quality services to the village of North Riverside.”
Mengoni’s first order of business was to call a special meeting of the village board for May 10 at 6 p.m. That meeting will play out predominantly in executive session and will concern personnel, he said.
The new mayor confirmed that he is intending to make some changes immediately, including appointing a new police chief and a new firm to serve as the village’s legal counsel.
Police Chief Carlos Garcia, who was appointed by Hermanek to that post in May 2019, confirmed he intends to retire later this summer. Mengoni did not reveal who Garcia’s replacement would be, nor who he was considering as the village’s new law firm.
North Riverside has been represented by Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath Ltd. since Hermanek appointed the firm as legal counsel in 2013. Like Hermanek, their role in the legal effort to privatize North Riverside’s firefighting services, had become a political liability.
Following the executive session on May 10 Mengoni is also likely to announce whether or not Sue Scarpiniti will be named village administrator on a permanent basis. She was appointed acting administrator in early 2020 after longtime administrator Guy Belmonte announced his retirement.