March 23, 2017
A Maywood native working on an economic growth initiative for the community is firing back at a mayoral candidate for comments he made about her at a recent forum.
Bridgette Chatman-Lewis of Chatman Lewis Flaggs, a consulting firm that has worked with Fortune 500 companies, said she tries to keep her organization apolitical, but her firm’s name continues to pop up in political discussions.
During the recent Proviso Township Minister Alliance Network’s candidates forum, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said trustees turned down Chatman-Lewis’ proposals to bring a grocery store and a factory to the community.
Mayoral candidate Henderson Yarbrough later refuted that saying that there never was a grocery store proposal presented and that Chatman-Lewis was just looking for a job from the village.
“To say I was looking for a job, that’s asinine,” Chatman-Lewis said. “I have two now. I don’t have time to work for the village and I’m not sure they have enough money to pay me. He said that erroneously. I never asked for a job or for compensation.”
Chatman-Lewis said she had been working with Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. and Assistant Village Manager David Myers to develop a business plan for the community and that it was the village officials who offered her money for the work.
“They said, ‘We’re pay you $5,000 out of seed money. You have done a lot of work and we want to work with you. It is in goodwill, good faith money. Then we will go back to the board for $30,000 or $40,000,’” Chatman-Lewis remembered. Her plan was then put on the Village Board agenda last winter “and that’s when I hit the firing line,” she said.
“I have never been talked to in such an unprofessional manner. Henderson Yarbrough kept cutting me off … I was appalled and concerned over their actions,” Chatman-Lewis said. She added that a representative of the factory that she was close to bringing to town was at that meeting.
“I’ve never been so humiliated,” Chatman-Lewis said. “It took five years to get that manufacturer to consider Maywood. He was going to bring 150 jobs, three shifts of work.”
She said Trustee Antonette “Toni” Dorris told her that “we don’t do that here,” insinuating that Chatman-Lewis was trying to get money for the village.
“I was never more mortified,” Chatman-Lewis said. “I had a manufacturer who wanted to come here and build here, bringing 150 jobs to a community that has 20-plus percent unemployment. It’s crazy. There has not been economic development here in 15 years.”
As for the potential grocery store, Chatman-Lewis said she has a personal friend with one of the largest retail corporations in the world, an individual who used to be an officer with Cub Foods.
“They turned that down,” Chatman-Lewis said. “My head was spinning. That person moved on to Town B.”
She stressed that she is not politically aligned with anybody and just wants to help the community where she grew up. Chatman-Lewis said she knows the town and knows its potential. Members of her own development team have said “no” to pitching Maywood to companies, she said, but she continues to do so.
When Aldi announced it was closing its Maywood location, she met with the company’s executive vice president about re-purposing the location. A planned 15-minute meeting went for 90 minutes, Chatman-Lewis said, and things seemed to be in the works.
“Then they call a press conference over the 10,000-square-foot store and 20,000-square-foot parking lot,” Chatman-Lewis said. “Tens of millions of dollars were pumped into this site by Aldi and they all wanted to run them out of town. You are going to call a press conference around this?”
To do all that she has tried to bring business to the community and be bad-mouthed by Yarbrough sticks in Chatman-Lewis’ craw.
“I never filled out a (request for proposal). I never asked for a quarter … Yarbrough is sadly mistaken. He is like an outfit lieutenant. He is an absolutely liar. I did five years of research. Five thousand dollars does not even cover assembling the team I had gotten. Politics in Maywood is the gift that keeps on giving.”