Thursday, March 2, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Andre Harvey, Bellwood’s director of public safety, is poised to become the village’s first African-American mayor on April 4. Bellwood’s current mayor, Frank Pasquale, 79, is retiring after 16 years in the position. Harvey, who is running unopposed, is Pasquale’s handpicked successor.
During an interview on Wednesday, Harvey, 53, talked about his life in Bellwood, Pasquale’s mentorship and what his priorities will be once he assumes office.
On life in Bellwood
I moved to Bellwood 48 years ago in 1969. My parents are still living in Bellwood. I met my wife of 36 years in 6th grade at Roosevelt Elementary School. We have two kids and two granddaughters.
When we moved to Bellwood, my family was probably the first African-American family on the block on 22nd and Randolph. I’m a product of District 88 and District 209. I graduated from Roosevelt Elementary before going on to Roosevelt Junior High School, where I graduated in 1977. I graduated from Proviso West High School in 1981.
In 1982, I joined the military. I was in the army from 1982 until 1985. When I came back to Bellwood, I got a job at the U.S. Postal Service. I worked there until 1988, when I had the fortunate opportunity to become the first African-American firefighter in Bellwood.
From there, I became the first African-American fire chief in Bellwood in 1996. So, I was a firefighter for 26 years and fire chief for 20 years. As a firefighter, I became an arson investigator. In 2010, the mayor promoted me to director of public safety, which involved heading the police and fire departments, and emergency services. In 2010, I went back to the police academy to become a state certified police officer.
Why are you running for mayor? And why is Pasquale retiring?
I sat down with Mayor Pasquale, we discussed it and we thought it would be a great idea for me to run. I’ve been living here for over 48 years.
I’ve worked closely with Mayor Pasquale for over 20 years. He was a trustee for a number of years before he became mayor in 2001. From then until now, he’s mentored me; him as well as Village Clerk Lena M. Moreland have mentored me, groomed me, and taught me for 16 years on the ins and outs of politics and how to make sure our community is becoming a better community.
The mayor didn’t know if he wanted to run again or retire. He’s 79 years old and has been working for over 50 years. This past year, he made the decision to spend some time with his family. He has grandchildren he wants to see grow. So, we sat down and talked about me running.
Bellwood’s been moving forward for the last 16, 17, 18 years and I refuse to step back and not continue that upward movement for Bellwood. I care about the community. I’ve been there so long, my parents live there.
What are some things that you want to keep going?
One is economic development. We want to make sure Bellwood is moving forward. We just finished the 25th Avenue overpass, which is going to bring in about 55,000 cars down 25th Avenue now that there isn’t the delay that we had with those trains. I believe that 25th Ave. is primed for economic development. So, we want to bring in new businesses on that corridor, in addition to the Mannheim and St. Charles corridors.
What’s happening with the site of the former Walgreen’s at 25th and Washington?
Since the deep tunnel project that went from Bellwood all the way to Chicago we’ve had more flooding. In 2010 and 2013 we had serious floods. We’ve had the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District come into Bellwood and install a $127 million retention pond in that area that we hope will reduce the flood plain.
There are approximately 900 homes in that floodplain right now. When that retention pond is done, we estimate that 800 of those homes will come out of the flood zone. Right now, people are paying $2,500 to $5,000 a year on flood insurance. If we can get that retention pond done, those people will be able to save that money they’re currently spending on flood insurance.
Will the mini-mall be affected? And what are the village’s plans to get that development to capacity because right now it’s seriously underdeveloped
The mini-mall will stay there. Currently, a receiver is managing that location. They’re trying to get new businesses to come in there. Right now, there’s a Dollar General that moved into one of the spaces. There’s a proposal in the works for another sit-down, café style establishment to move in there. We project that, with more cars coming down 25th Avenue, more businesses will want to move into that development.
The McDonalds in that area will be expanding very soon. We’re proud to say that’s one of the busiest McDonald’s in the western suburbs. In the coming months, they’ll be doing work to make it bigger and more inviting to customers.
Bellwood has been building houses for some years. What are the plans for that program when you get in office?
Over the last 16 years, we’ve been redeveloping locations that haven’t been doing so well. About five years ago, we put in five new homes on Bellwood Avenue in the 100 block. Then we had a piece of land on the 500 block of Englewood that had been vacant for something like the last 30 years. We put in three new homes there.
So, going forward, on that land we have on the 3200 block of Randolph, right behind Memorial Park District, we’re putting in 12 new homes. The people in Bellwood have always said they’re looking for bigger homes. We have a nice stock of smaller homes, or starter homes to some people, but as families grow, they want bigger homes. All of those homes we built in the past have sold pretty quickly, so we’re projecting that these will sell pretty quickly as well.
I know the village doesn’t have much control over the school and library districts, but a lot of people are concerned about what’s happening in those taxing bodies. Will you endorse any candidates running for library and school board seats?
As a new mayor coming in, I won’t really be pushing any side. I am, however, vowing that once I become mayor, I will work very closely with the school board to try to make a great effort to turn the school system around. I plan on working with whoever is sitting in those board seats. VFP
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