Jim Sexton will not run next spring for re-election as mayor of Evergreen Park—and two candidates have emerged to succeed him.
Sexton, who has been mayor since 2001, said the time is right.
“You know when you know,” Sexton said. “I’m not getting any younger. There are younger and fresher ideas out there.”
Sexton, 68, was an Evergreen Park village trustee from 1987-1995, then village clerk from 1995 to 2001 before being elected mayor. He said he was inspired to take on a career in public service by his father, John, who was a longtime member of the Chicago Police Department.
Sexton said he is proud of retail development on major corridors, as several major big-box stores have opened in recent years and the Evergreen Plaza was torn down and a new open-air design was built.
Sexton said his proudest achievement, however, is in the work of first responders.
“Our police and fire are next to none,” Sexton said. “We’re at a very low crime rate, and fires are put out within minutes. We’re very fortunate to have all the good people who we have working for this village.”
Two candidates are running for mayor in the April election: state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) and Shawn Good, who was removed from the ballot eight years ago.
Burke has represented the 36th District, which includes Evergreen Park, Beverly and Mt. Greenwood, since 2011. She is also a member of the Evergreen Park Board of Trustees and an attorney.
She will run as part of the United Homeowners/Good Government party slate, which also includes Village Clerk Cathy Aparo and trustees Norm Anderson, Carol Kyle and Mark Phelan.
Sexton supports Burke, and he said that she has the younger and fresher ideas that are needed. He also believes her work in state politics can translate to serving Evergreen Park.
Burke, an Evergreen Park resident for 27 years, said she will remain as a state representative if she is elected. She stepped down as an attorney at Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath Ltd., in Evergreen Park, at the end of 2020 after two years there.
On days when she is working as a state rep, Burke said, she will not receive pay as mayor. She said she does not have a state pension and would not take a pension as mayor.
Burke is a former member of the Evergreen Park Library Board of Trustees and was a St. Xavier University staff member for five years.
She said that being elected mayor will help her serve as a state representative.
“I think that helps with shaping policy for the entire state,” Burke said, “and conversely, understanding how and why things work in Springfield helps us on the local level as well.”
She said she is proud of the addition to the library as a trustee, and she touted her work as a state representative in working with Sexton to file a lawsuit against CSX Transportation, Inc., regarding problems with local train service.
Burke said she will reach out to village residents to “take a pulse” on what improvements they want. More young people are moving in to the village during the pandemic, she said, and she would like to increase recreational programming.
She is also proud of the way elected officials have engaged with residents.
“We’ve really done, I think, a good job of trying to meet the needs of the residents,” Burke said. “I think we need to gauge what people are looking for and try and make them [a reality].”
Good attempted to run for mayor in 2013, but she was thrown off the ballot by an election panel that ruled she didn’t have enough signatures after a Cook County employee removed over 20.
The panel also ruled that Good’s 10-page packet was not fastened appropriately, as a paper clip did not hold it together.
Burt Odelson—a partner at Odelson, Sterk, Murphey, Frazier & McGrath Ltd—led the effort to have Good removed from the ballot.
She became a write-in candidate, and Sexton did not face a challenger on the ballot.
Good, who grew up in Evergreen Park, said 2013 was a “learning experience and “prepared me” for the coming election.
She is running as an independent and teaming up with Cesar Salazar and Darryl Smith, who are running for a seat on the board of trustees.
Good, a paralegal and U.S. Air Force veteran, said she will “commit myself 100 percent” to the job of mayor and “make Evergreen Park the No. 1 priority” if she wins.
She has a long list of plans, she said, that include eliminating a red-light camera at 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue, reprioritizing how residents’ complaints to the mayor’s office are handled; reform on tax increment financing (TIF); converting the village’s park system from a recreational center to a park district; repurposing the building that was home to St. Bernadette Elementary School into affordable housing for those working at nearby OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center; addressing concerns on train traffic; and improving the business district to appeal to young people.
She fears that tearing down the Evergreen Plaza and replacing it with another mall wasn’t a good idea.
Still, she praised Sexton for his service.
“I want to take all the things that he has done well,” she said, “and expand on those.”
Good said “Evergreen Park is a great place to raise a family.”
She also hopes her last name helps create a positive message.
“We’re good together,” she said. “We’re stronger together.”