By J. Coyden Palmer
Political novice John Wicks is attempting to become the new mayor in west suburban Bellwood in the April 6 election. Wicks is a longtime community organizer and has lived in the village for 35 years. He is running as part of the four-person ticket of the Bellwood People’s Choice Party. He will be taking on Mayor Andre F. Harvey, who is also a lifelong resident of the village.
Harvey began a commitment to Bellwood as a firefighter in 1998 and has also served as a peace officer. Elected in April 2017 as the first African-American Mayor Andre F. Harvey of Bellwood, IL, he also is the village’s first African-American firefighter and fire chief. He received the endorsement of the previous Mayor Frank Pasquale.
Wicks currently works as a security officer in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Unit. Wicks said one of his main focuses during his first 100 days, if elected, will be bringing reform to the police department. This comes after a Bellwood police commander was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography.
“As mayor, I promise to listen to the needs of the people, be a visible presence and work with local community leaders and stakeholders,” Wicks said.
“This is the only way to make sure that our investment priorities respect and reflect the needs of our community.” Wicks added further, he would “bring Bellwood’s best and brightest together to revitalize commercial districts, uplift community engagement, and tackle the challenges surrounding public safety in a transparent and prudent manner.”
Harvey made several accomplishments during his first term in office.
The Village of Bellwood received its very first Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting award. Presented by the Government Finance Officers Association, the award, a prestigious national award, is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting. Its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.
Finance reporting recognition not- withstanding, Wicks believes there needs to be more programs and initiatives developed for youth, and more senior programs. In addition, he said he will reconstruct the village’s ordinances and codes, which he believes are antiquated and do not allow residents with pickup trucks to park on village streets without getting a parking ticket.
“It seems like we have gotten away from working with our seniors and just left them hanging. It’s unfortunate,” Wicks said. “And we have to develop programs for young men that teach them how to get out in the working field.”
Both candidates believe economic development is an important issue for not just Bellwood, but the area in general. Wicks says he will have a robust economic development plan implemented that will work with the community at large. Mayor Harvey says he is proud of his economic development record.
“Our economic development team has gone out and brought a gas station to 25th and the Eisenhower expressway, which has resulted in an increase in sales taxes coming in,” Harvey said.
“In addition, Duke Realty is putting a large building on the north corner of 25th Avenue, and U-Haul has come into our community at 950 W. 25th Avenue and put over a $100-million building that is state-of-the-art and that has brought in all of their mechanical shops and storage space into the area.”
Harvey continued, “We also have a new Quick Trip development, which is debuting in the Chicago area, and this gas station will also sell diesel fuel, so we will get a lot of truckers coming into Bellwood to patronize that business. Not only will it be a gas station, it will also have a café inside that sells hot meals.”
Wicks believes that developing the community economically should not be done at the expense of citizens. One thing he is vowing to do immediately if elected is the removal of all red-light cameras in the Village of Bellwood. He would also implement a debt amnesty program to completely or partially forgive all fines. The cameras have driven a wedge between the community and local government, Wicks said.
Harvey said he has unified Bellwood’s governing bodies, and is working with Chris Welch, Illinois Speaker of the House, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He is hoping to work with them to rebuild downtown Bellwood along St. Charles Road.
Wicks believes there should be even more economic development in the area and is vowing to do just that. Both candidates agree that the 25th Avenue corridor is going to be a vital economic development project that whoever is mayor must deliver on.
He said essential businesses are nonexistent in Bellwood. He said Walgreen’s leaving was a big blow to the community and the nearest grocery store is in a neighboring community. He said there are currently 26 vacant businesses in the Mannheim corridor.
“We have to find a way to bring businesses back to Bellwood and to retain them,” Wicks said. He also wants to bring more Black-owned business to the community.
Last month, Bellwood Police Commander John Trevarthen was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography after images were found on his personal cellphone and a village laptop.
Wicks claims that Mayor Harvey is responsible for hiring Trevarthen and should be held accountable. Mayor Harvey said you cannot expect him to be able to control the personal lives of village employees. He said he was shocked and disappointed about the arrest and immediately took steps to protect the community.
“His arrest was devastating to me,” Harvey said. “When I heard of it, I immediately called every department head and elected official in the village to a meeting that same day,” he said.
“I saw the indictment and the three counts he is charged with. We began our internal investigation. We put him on administrative leave on day one. By day six he had resigned. He is no longer an employee of the Village of Bellwood. He ruined his career.”