By Joe Boyle
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton has announced he will retire when his term ends next spring.
And he has given his support to Kelly Burke, who became a village trustee last year, to become the next mayor. Burke has also been the Democratic state representative of the 36th District for the past decade.
Burke said she is ready for the challenge of becoming the Evergreen Park mayor in 2021 despite the fact the COVID-19 pandemic has been a drain on the economy.
“As mayor, I will be accessible and will bring experience and energy to the job to keep our village safe and thriving,” Burke said.
Burke has lived in Evergreen Park for 27 years. In the legislature, she is an assistant majority leader and is involved with the state budget, higher education, health, and pension issues.
If she is elected in April, Burke would become the first female mayor in the history of Evergreen Park.
Sexton has served as the Evergreen Park mayor for 20 years. He was a trustee for 14 years and spent five more as a village clerk. He began serving Evergreen Park as a public official in April of 1987. He has been a resident of Evergreen Park since 1977.
While he has enjoyed his tenure as Evergreen Park mayor, Sexton said it is time to move on.
“I think it is time,” Sexton said on Friday. “It is a young person’s game. You don’t want to stay longer than you should. It’s time to get some younger blood in there.
Sexton did want to point out that when Burke became a trustee last year it was not on the understanding that she would replace him.
“No, it just kind of developed on itself,” Sexton. “I have been thinking about this for a while. If Kelly gets an opportunity to become mayor, she will work hard for the people of the village.”
Burke will be running as a member of the United Home Owners Good Government Party. Rounding out the slate are the incumbent Village Clerk Cathy Aparo and Trustees Carol Kyle, Mark Phelan and Norm Anderson.
As of this week, Burke is the only candidate for mayor. The general election will take place Tuesday, April 6.
Sexton said the highlights of his career as mayor would be the development of businesses in the village. The new outdoor Plaza shopping strip revitalization along Western Avenue has been a highlight, he said. The development further north, the Evergreen Marketplace that includes Menards, Meijer and other stores, is another achievement, the mayor added.
“I think the biggest thing we did was development and adding businesses,” Sexton said. “The businesses we have added up and down 95th Street was great for the village. And we are proud of the fact that we have provided a lot of open space for our residents.”
The mayor pointed to significant land developments, including 50-Acre Park at 91st and California Avenue that replaced the Evergreen Park Golf Course. The 50-Acre Park area features open land for walking and jogging, a dog park, a driving range and an agricultural barn at 9100 S. Rockwell that features horses Turk and Jack and goats, Clark and Addison. During the winter, the hill at 50-Acre Park is used for sledding.
Yukich Fields at 8900 S. Kedize Ave. also has walking and jogging paths, a soccer field, baseball and softball fields, and the Dan Capuano Ice Rink. Sexton said the development of the land is a benefit to the community and has kept residents remaining in Evergreen Park. The annual farmers market is held in the parking lot of Yukich Fields from May through October.
“And our police and fire departments are second to none,” Sexton said. “And that’s another reason people come to live here. They feel safe and protected and want to stay here.”
Burke has lived in Evergreen Park for 27 years. She and her husband, Terry, have three children. In the legislature, she is an assistant majority leader and is involved with the state budget, higher education, heath care, and pension issues. She is also a founding member of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus.
She received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her J.D. from the John Marshall Law School. She is an attorney at the Evergreen Park-based firm of Odelson & Sterk.
“As mayor, I will be accessible and will bring experience and energy to the job to keep our village safe and thriving,” Burke said. “Economic development and providing services for all village residents — from our seniors to our children — will be my top priorities. I am proud to have the support of Mayor Sexton and look forward to a great working relationship with our clerk and village trustees.”
Sexton added that although 2020 has been difficult due to the pandemic, the village is heading in the right direction. The village has no outstanding debts, the mayor said.
“We still have some work to do for the next six months, but we are definitely in good shape,” Sexton said.