By Bob Skolnik
Monday night new North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. appointed Deborah Czajka to replace her husband, Randy, on the village board.
Randy Czajka, who is suffering from a rare, progressive neurological disorder called multiple system atrophy, or MSA, resigned his position on the village board Monday night moments before his wife's appointment. Deborah Czajka will serve the final two years of her husband's term.
"She's well qualified, she's well known, she's intelligent, she's run for election before, she's been on the school board for years, she's well liked, she's very knowledgeable," Hermanek said when asked why he appointed Deborah Czajka to replace her husband.
The village board voted unanimously to accept the appointment.
Deborah Czajka just completed her fourth term on the Komarek School District 94 board and served as the school board president for the last four years. Czajka, 52, has lived in North Riverside for all her life.
"It is very bittersweet," Czajka said of her appointment. "I've been by Randy's side through this whole thing, lived every moment of his 20 years plus [on the village board]." "It's getting to point where he can't speak very well. Mentally he's got it. We talked about it and he said, 'You know what Deb, you know exactly what's going on. I want you to be my successor.' We talked to the mayor and everything like that. What a fit."
Randy Czajka had served on the North Riverside Village Board since 1991.
He was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy a little more than four years ago, Deborah Czajka said. Symptoms of MSA are similar to Parkinson's disease, but MSA is a faster-progressing disease. There is no known cure, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
Randy Czajka wrote a letter of resignation that Hermanek read aloud at the meeting.
"My wish for this great village has always been for us to work together and bond toward one common goal," Randy Czajka wrote. "That goal was for our village to be the best of the best. I'm proud to have taken part in keeping that goal."
As expected, the village board also unanimously approved the appointment of Lane Niemann as chief of police, Deborah Garcia as deputy police chief and Brian Basek as fire chief.
New law firm appointed
The village board also unanimously approved the appointment of the law firm of Odelson and Sterk to be the town's new village attorney, replacing Eric Hansen of the Joliet law firm of Mahoney, Silverman and Cross.
Hermanek, a lawyer himself with a solo practice on the Southwest Side of Chicago, said that he had no problem with Mahoney, Silverman and Cross, but preferred to use a Cook County law firm.
"They did a good job," Hermanek said of Mahoney, Silverman and Cross. "I'm just more comfortable with Cook County lawyers."
Hermanek said that he has known lawyers from Odelson and Sterk, which is based in Evergreen Park, from his work at the Bridgeview courthouse.
"I've known them professionally for years, and I know their municipal work," Hermanek said. "They're fine lawyers."
Burt Odelson, probably the most prominent election lawyer in the Chicago area, played a key role in knocking Hermanek's mayoral opponent, former Trustee Rocco DeSantis, off the ballot in last month's election. Odelson represented the person who objected to DeSantis's eligibility for office and led the successful legal effort.
An appellate court ruled that DeSantis was not eligible to run for mayor while on police disability, because he was still considered a member of the North Riverside Police Department.
Hermanek and Odelson both denied that the appointment of Odelson and his firm as village attorney was any kind of pay back for help during the election campaign.
"Only a newspaper person would think that," Odelson said after the meeting.
Odelson and Sterk do a lot of municipal law and represents about 17 other towns, including Stickney and Northlake, Odelson said.
Odelson said that he is looking forward to serving North Riverside.
"We're very proud to be appointed to serve this very fine village," Odelson said.