Kadner: Blue Island’s Peloquin won’t seek re-election
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 September 7, 2012 10:46PM
Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin is running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:25AM
After 27 years in office, Blue Island Mayor Donald Peloquin has decided not to seek re-election next spring.
“I said I would stay in office so long as I was contributing to the betterment of the city,” Peloquin said, “and it’s now apparent from things the city council is saying and the people are saying, that it’s time to move in a different direction.”
I asked him what people were saying that made him feel that way.
“There’s talk about going to a village manager form of government,” he said. “It’s just obvious to me that people here feel it’s time for new leadership, and I’m fine with that. It’s the direction the people want to go in.”
Peloquin, a Republican, is running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) in November.
“I will remain mayor while running for Congress, but this will be my last term,” he said. “It will be 28 years when I step down.”
I asked Peloquin, 68, to list his proudest achievements during his years in office.
“Oh, gosh, I don’t know about achievements,” he said. “We elected the first Hispanic alderman and the first black alderman and I’m proud of that.
“We got people to realize that racial diversity in a community is not a bad thing. We built a golf course on an old landfill. And we’re going to have a national rowing center on the Little Calumet River.”
I thought the mayor might mention his efforts to replace St. Frances Hospital after it closed with Metro South Medical Center and wondered why he overlooked that.
“That wasn’t me,” he said. “That wasn’t any one person. It was everyone in the community working together and I am proud of that. But I can’t take credit for that.”
The thing Peloquin may be best remembered for outside of Blue Island is his campaign several years ago to create Lincoln County. He wanted 55 south suburbs from the Indiana border to Interstate 55 to secede from Cook County.
Laughing when I reminded him of that campaign, Peloquin said, “I still feel Cook County is too large, and the south suburbs don’t get their fair share of taxes or services.”
Peloquin, a funeral director and part owner of Hickey Memorial Chapel, is a part-time mayor — earning a salary of $20,000 plus $10,000 as city liquor commissioner.
He said he has managed to run the city with a full-time finance director, two full-time attorneys and “just a wonderful staff of people.”
As far as picking a successor, Peloquin said, “I’ll leave that to the people and the individuals who want to run for office.
“I will tell you this, if you want to be mayor, you have to really want to do the job. It’s a lot of work. It takes away from your family time and your business. So you had better be willing to work at it.”
Asked if he had any regrets, Peloquin said, “No. None.”
Always the optimist, he sees a bright future for Blue Island.
“Creating a full interchange between I-57 and I-294 will have a huge impact on the future of development,” he said. “Just as I-88 and I-94 have become development corridors for the west and northwest suburbs, I believe I-57 and I-80 will become that for the south suburbs.
“We have the railroads, intermodal, commuter trains, buses and with a new airport in the south suburbs, we’ll have everything that’s needed for a revitalization of the area. I really believe that. Everything’s in place.”
The mayor has been criticized in recent years for allowing Blue island’s infrastructure to deteriorate, particularly its streets and bridges.
Peloquin in turn has pointed the finger of blame at state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island), whose father was unseated as mayor by Peloquin in the 1985 election.
Political feuding between the Rita family and Peloquin has continued over the past three decades.
I asked Peloquin if he had heard whether Rita or a surrogate of the family would be running for mayor.
“I haven’t talked to Bobby Rita about that and don’t plan to talk to him about it,” he said.
Peloquin has lived in Blue Island, where he and his wife raised four children, his entire life. He served as an alderman from 1981-85 before becoming mayor.
There are three Southland mayors who have served longer than Peloquin. Gene Siegel of Chicago Ridge was elected in 1975, and Tinley Park’s Edward Zabrocki and Palos Hills’ Gerald Bennett were elected in 1981.
Peloquin rattled their names off without hesitation.
“It’s an honor to serve your community for that long but you have to know when your time is up,” he said.
“I know it’s time for somebody else to take over. New leadership, new thinking, new ways of doing things. I have no regrets.”