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By Mike Sandrolini
BELLWOOD | On Wednesday night, Dr. Frank Pasquale presided over his last meeting of the Bellwood Village Board. The popular mayor announced his retirement earlier this year after serving four terms, giving way to Andre Harvey, his successor, who officially took over this week.
“I’ve really been very blessed,” said Pasquale early this week. “Not only have I had the support of my trustees, which is important. Even more important is the support I got from my residents for 16 years. They voted me in three times in a row and it was never close—never a close election. I felt very secure with them and apparently, they trusted me. We got a heckuva lot accomplished.”
Among the top accomplishments, Pasquale helped orchestrate during his tenure were:
–The 25th Avenue overpass, which will save commuters and emergency vehicles time as it eliminates frequent delays caused by freight and Metra trains. Daily commuter traffic also is expected to triple, making Bellwood a desirable venue for retail outlets and developers. “That was in the making for 20 years,” he said. “Every Christmas you hear about the Miracle on 34th Street. I named this bridge, ‘Miracle on 25th Avenue.’ ”
–The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Addison Creek Reservoir Project—a 600-acre-foot reservoir to be built just north of Washington Boulevard and west of 25th Avenue. Once completed, the reservoir, which will cost an estimated $130 million, will be 17 acres and 50 feet deep and provide an estimated 20 million gallons of flood storage, protecting nearly 1,700 structures along Addison Creek. “We’ve got 900 people that need flood insurance because they’re in a flood zone,” said Pasquale, who served as chairman of the Addison Creek Restoration Commission. “Once this is built, 800 will be coming off (of the need to get flood insurance). That’s a huge amount.”
–Six years and counting of not raising taxes on village residents.
Pasquale also pointed out two other achievements—perhaps not as well publicized as those just mentioned, but important nonetheless:
“The second year in office we completed all the alleys,” he said. “We used to have dirt alleys and we cemented all of them. We took care of that. When I took office, I noticed a lot of residents were moving out. I couldn’t figure out why so I called a couple of them. They said, “We just out-grew our home. We wanted a larger home’ so within two years, we started building larger homes. They were sold before people could move in.”
Over 80 percent of the village’s population is African-American, but Pasquale noted that continually reaching out to residents—no matter their race or ethnicity—and communicating with them either directly or through the village website, were keys to developing and maintaining trust and getting things done.
“(The) residents are why you are here,” he said, “and he (Mayor Harvey) understands that. He’s going to keep the open door policy just as I had, and anyone who opens the door and comes up here (to the mayor’s office) can see him. He has no ax to grind; he’s a leader.”
“When I talk to people who don’t live in Bellwood, but know Bellwood is predominantly black, they ask, ‘How do you keep getting elected?’ They are amazed, and I said, ‘You know what? Don’t underestimate the intelligence of my black residents. They’re smart people.’ They came out here (to Bellwood) and they feel that they’re part of the community. The newsletter that I put out every month, I tell them what’s going on. (If) you’ve got any questions, call me; come up and see me.”
Pasquale said he believes the village is in good hands with Andre Harvey as its new mayor. “Harvey’s been a stand-up guy from Day 1,” he said. “When I came in, he was already promoted to fire chief. I check with my police chief and fire chief daily about what’s going on. You ask him a question and you may not like the answer, but he’s going to tell it to you. I appreciate and respect him for that. He’s grown up in Bellwood, he knows Bellwood and the residents know him. The residents are helping him now. He’s a pretty aggressive guy and he’s learned quite well.”
In addition to being mayor, Pasquale served as a village trustee for six years and was the Memorial Park District Commissioner for 20. Pasquale has a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and a doctorate of education in behavioral science. He wants to return to education and has been in contact with officials at St. Joseph High School in Westchester—where he was once the director of guidance and counseling—to become a volunteer part-time substitute teacher.
“Either two days a week all day or three days a week half day,” he said, “so I’m waiting to hear from them. They like the idea.” However, Pasquale wants to spend the majority of his time with his family—his wife (Vivian), children and grandchildren.
“I’m 80 years old, I’ve still got my health and I can do things,” he said. “My wife and I, we’re pretty active.” Yet if Mayor Harvey needs him for anything, he’s only a phone call away. “I’m not moving; I’m too old to get into a new mortgage,” he said.
“So, I’m staying here and I told Andre, ‘Andre, whatever committee you want to put me on, I’m available. If I’m in the area (referring to village hall), I’ll come in and say hello. I’m not going to come up here every day and be a pest, but anytime you need me, call me. Put me on any committee you want.”