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By Mike Sandrolini
Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories on Andre Harvey, Bellwood’s new mayor. The second story will focus on Harvey addressing some issues currently facing the village.
BELLWOOD | Andre Harvey has served the Village of Bellwood in several capacities over the past 29 years, and along the way, he’s achieved some noteworthy benchmarks.
For example, Harvey became Bellwood’s first African-American firefighter in 1988 and its first African-American fire chief in 1996. Now, Harvey is the village’s first African-American mayor. Although he ran unopposed, Harvey received over 2,200 votes in the April 4 election running on the Bellwood First Party ticket.
The Bellwood First Party also swept to victories other races, as Janel Moreland ran unopposed for Village Clerk. First Party candidates Michael J. Ciavattone, Anne N. Delgado and Ronald Nightengale also were elected out of four candidates to fill three village trustee seats.
Harvey, who’s been the village’s director of public safety since 2010, succeeds longtime Mayor Dr. Frank Pasquale. Pasquale announced his retirement earlier this year, and approached Harvey about succeeding him.
“I really had no aspirations and dreams of becoming the mayor,” said Harvey in a recent interview with the West Suburban Journal. “I wanted to definitely have a great career here in the Village of Bellwood, and wanted to show my community that an African-American person could perform at a high level, whether it was as a firefighter, as a fire chief, and as director of public safety.
“When the mayor talked about retiring, he looked around and he wanted to see if he could find someone that would be able to fill his shoes and fulfill his roles and he actually asked me, would I consider if he were to step down to run for mayor?”
Harvey agreed to run because his roots run deep in Bellwood, he wants the village to “continue to succeed” and he wants the village’s various departments to maintain their continuity—especially the police and fire departments.
“I want it to be a great city, not just a good city in the western suburbs,” he said. “My family’s been here since 1969, I raised my kids here and I’m raising my grandkids here now. One thing I didn’t want: I didn’t want the next person that was going to step into the seat of mayor to come in and not continue the great things that have already been started.
“Having worked in the police and fire departments, I didn’t want someone to come in and upset the apple cart in those departments. I wanted those departments to be comfortable with the person that’s coming in and be proud to have a person that’s home grown, that started their roots within the (village) departments, and groomed themselves and grown within the departments.”
A 1981 Proviso West graduate and an Army veteran, Harvey also has served the village as a public education specialist, an arson investigator and has worked as an emergency medical technician. He said taking over as mayor means more to him than becoming the village’s first African-American mayor, as important of a milestone as that is.
“As far as being the first African American to fill this position, I’m proud to be because I work with the youth a lot and I want to show young men of African descent that we can do things and be proud of it,” he said. “But that aside, I don’t really want to be looked at as just the first African-American mayor of Bellwood. I want to continue the good work that Mayor Pasquale has been doing and continue to work hard and make the Village of Bellwood the best village it can be.
“I’m so happy and proud that the citizens of Bellwood elected me to be their next mayor and to elect the entire Bellwood First Party to continue the great work that’s been started years ago. Bellwood is definitely on the move; we continue to strive and move forward.”
As for who will succeed him as director of public safety, Harvey said, “At this point, the position is probably going to be vacant for a while.”
“If we decide to get someone else to take over that position, we want to make sure that person is the right person for the job,” he said. “At this point, I think I have a strong police chief and a strong fire chief that will be able to pick up some of the slack that the public safety director was handling.”