Candidates for village president speak at forum
Bulthuis, Pickerill and Taglia make their appeals to voters
By Chris Fox
Lombardian-Villa Park Review Staff Reporter
The Villa Park Junior Women’s Club (VPJWC) held a forum last week for local candidates in the upcoming April 4 election. The March 8 forum at Villa Park Village Hall included candidates running in local school board races, as well as those running for village president and seats on the village board.
VPJWC member Lizzie Roscoe moderated the forum, which concluded with questions for the three men running for village president. Two village trustees—Albert Bulthuis and Robert Taglia—are joining resident Chuck Pickerill in the campaign. The winner will succeed Deborah Bullwinkel, who is not seeking re-election. The next village president will take office in May.
Roscoe offered each of the three candidates up to two minutes to briefly introduce themselves to voters, and to explain why they chose to run for village president.
Bulthuis, who stated he preferred to be called “Al,” said he and his wife have lived in Villa Park for 30 years. Bulthuis and his wife, who have been married for 43 years, raised their three children in the village. One of those children now lives in Villa Park with his wife.
“The reason I’m running for village president is I feel that we have made a lot of progress in the 10 years that I’ve served on the board,” said Bulthuis, who was elected a village trustee in 2007. He won re-election to four-year terms in 2011 and 2015. “When I first came on the board, there was a lot of strife among board members,” he added. “We’ve taken care of that. I think our board now works very well together. I want to continue that. I also want to continue some of the projects that we have going.”
Bulthuis went on to state a number of businesses in the village that have recently opened on Roosevelt Road and North Avenue. He also spoke of some of his work as a village trustee, including the adoption of a Crime-Free housing ordinance and a vacant building ordinance.
Pickerill, who stated he preferred to be called “Chuck,” identified himself as a lifelong Villa Park resident. He attended St. Alexander School and Willowbrook High School. Pickerill, who lives with his wife and two granddaughters, said he has been a businessman for nearly 40 years. This is his first campaign for elective office.
“I feel that Villa Park is my hometown,” he said. “I want to bring that feeling to the other residents of Villa Park. I feel that we need to bring the village along a better path—a faster path. “I’m not a politician. I bring new perspective to the board, and I plan to bring a new energy…and to make some things happen.”
Taglia, who said he preferred to be called “Bob,” stated that he and his wife Kimberly have lived in Villa Park for 15 years. They have three children. Taglia is near the end of his second term as a village trustee. He was elected to the board in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. The trustee noted that he has been involved in several community groups, including Villa Park Youth Baseball.
“Since I came on the board, a lot has changed,” said Taglia, who said he pushed for an assessment of the village and its operations. Taglia also noted the hiring of Rich Keehner as Villa Park’s village manager nearly six years ago.
“We’ve made a lot of changes to the operations of the village,” added Taglia. “We’ve gotten a lot done…and it’s a team effort.”
Taglia said during his opening remarks that Bullwinkel had told him she wasn’t going to run for a second term as village president. According to Taglia, Bullwinkel asked him to run in her place.
“She told me if I would [run] she would back me and endorse me, so I agreed to it,” said Taglia.
What’s the president’s role?
Following the opening remarks, Roscoe asked four questions of the candidates. Bulthuis, Pickerill and Taglia, who were informed of the topics of the questions prior to the forum, provided answers following each question. The first question stated, “What do you believe is the role of the village president, and what is your plan to serve in that role?”
“The role of the village president is to promote Villa Park, listen to the people, bring it back to the board, discuss it, implement policy and make sure the village projects are running on time and on budget,” responded Pickerill. He also said the village president should not neglect existing businesses in the village.
“I feel, in talking to other businessmen—we feel like we’re overlooked—all the attention is put on bringing somebody new to town,” said Pickerill.
“I believe that it is the village’s president’s job to bring the board members together … to see what are the concerns of the residents,” said Taglia. “We serve the people. We work for the residents.”
Taglia also said it’s important to patronize Villa Park businesses. He stated the village president’s job is to advertise the village, as well as to work with the board to oversee the village manager and the operations of the village. Taglia also mentioned the importance of keeping good relationships with members of the Illinois State Legislature.
“The job of the president is to bring the board to consensus on issues we feel are important to the residents and the community—the community being residents and businesses,” said Bulthuis in responding to the question about the role of the village president. “We are the face of the community,” Bulthuis added, stating that the village president should be a promoter of Villa Park, talk to business owners and deal with neighboring communities.”
What are the village’s priorities in the next year?
The second question directed to the three candidates asked them to state the priority issues or projects the village board needs to address in the next year. Taglia referred to road repair projects and related underground work.
“We are working on a funding source for underground utilities,” said Taglia, who stated his support of the sales-tax referendum proposal in next month’s election. The proposal asks voters if they approve raising the village’s sales-tax rate from 7.5 to 8 percent. If approved, the new rate would reportedly generate additional annual revenue of about $1.5 million for the village. That revenue would be directed to underground projects, including the installation of storm sewers and water mains.
“I believe it’s important we pass that,” said Taglia. “These things have to be done and they have to be paid for. That’s the reality of it.”
Bulthuis echoed Taglia in touching on road and sewer projects as major priorities for the village board.
“Number one is sewer separation,” said Bulthuis, referring to the separation of combined sewer systems in the village. “Nobody in today’s day and age should live where they have sewage backup in their basements.”
Bulthuis stated pension funding as another major issue facing the village board.
“Time is money,” said Pickerill in talking about the completion of road projects. “If we can find a way of doing it faster, we could save money.”
Pickerill said he supported the proposal to raise the village’s sales-tax rate.
“Villa Park skirted the issue for so long that everything needs to be done now,” he said in referring to road and underground work.
Question about parks and recreation
The third question asked the candidates what the village president can do, in conjunction with the village board, to ensure the parks and recreation department has adequate modern facilities and program offerings. Bulthuis said the condition of both Jefferson Pool and Lufkin Pool are a major issue. He said the pools are at the end of their useful lives.
“It doesn’t make sense to throw more money at them,” said Bulthuis of the pools. He also mentioned the potential of building a recreation center in a centralized location in the village.
Bulthuis stated that neighboring communities have their own park districts, while Villa Park has a parks and recreation department that functions within the village government. He said that he planned to push for the creation of a park district in the village.
Pickerill said he did not want to create a new park district, which he said would lead to higher taxes. He mentioned the consideration of building a recreation center at Lions Field, which he described as the largest available piece of property in the center of Villa Park.
Taglia stated that the village’s two public pools are at the end of their useful lives, but they are both in usable condition. He said both pools will be open for the 2017 and they will be safe. Taglia said he supported looking into the construction of a centralized recreation center.
Working with nearby communities
The final question for the candidates for village president asked how they would work with neighboring village presidents and mayors to foster relationships between Villa Park and those municipalities and their businesses and residents.
“Villa Park is like a little niche community,” said Pickerill. “Everybody looks at Villa Park as their younger brother or sister, and doesn’t give it the respect it deserves. I would try and raise the respect level of Villa Park by working with these other towns and presidents.”
Taglia said he has spent a lot of time working with Villa Park’s neighbors during his eight years as a trustee. He mentioned his trips to Springfield to meet with state legislators, as well as visits to the Illinois Municipal League conference in Chicago.
“We do work more with our neighboring communities now than 10 years ago,” said Bulthuis. “We share equipment and personnel if there is an emergency.”
Bulthuis said it is important for the village to continue its involvement with organizations like the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and the Illinois Municipal League.
“We’re a smaller community,” said Bulthuis of Villa Park, which has a population of about 22,000. “We’re not a Naperville. We’re not an Aurora. They seem to have more influence. We have to be at those organizations all the time to let them know Villa Park is here, we want our share and we have a voice, too.”
The forum will be rebroadcast at 6 p.m. daily until April 3 on Comcast Channel 6 and AT&T Channel 99 until April 3—the day before the election.