Long goodbye: Ex-Chicago Ridge mayor still moving out of office
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2013 7:26PM
Former Chicago Ridge Mayor Gene Siegel has the daunting task of sifting through 38 years of memories in his office while new Mayor Chuck Tokar waits to move in. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 8, 2013 6:57AM
Thirty-eight years can seem like an eternity compared with six weeks.
But those two numbers are linked at Chicago Ridge Village Hall.
Former Mayor Gene Siegel served 38 proud and productive years leading the village. On Tuesday, it will be six weeks since former village Clerk Chuck Tokar was sworn in as mayor.
But if one were to visit Tokar at the village hall, he or she wouldn’t find Tokar in the mayor’s office. He still is in the clerk’s office.
It is spacious, but not as large as the mayoral digs.
The larger, corner office reserved for the mayor still is filled with remnants — plaques, photos, autographed sports jerseys, hats, mugs, you name it — from Siegel’s nearly four decades as mayor, as Siegel has yet to move out.
So where is newly elected village clerk George Schleyer? He’s in a cubbyhole down the hall with a desk, computer and a few drawers with which to run the part-time gig.
Schleyer and Tokar are not complaining. Then again, each would like to move into his respective office sooner rather than later.
Asked about the situation, Schleyer diplomatically said, “Ask Chuck.”
Tokar, Siegel’s right-hand man for decades, chose his words carefully and insisted there’s no rush.
“I’m moving in as soon as he gets everything out of there. He’s been working on it,” Tokar said of Siegel. “He’s had his family in working on it. He thought he’d have it done by the Fourth of July. He’s got a lot of it in boxes.”
Much of Siegel’s memorabilia can be stored in a spare room in the lower level of the village hall, Tokar said.
“Then he can take his time and go through it. He can decide what he wants to get rid of, what he wants to put in storage,” Tokar said.
“We’ve got to get going on this,” Tokar said. “I had a painter here (recently). There are nail holes everywhere. There’s probably 100 nail holes in that room. There’s an awful lot of spackling that will be going on.”
A few months ago, Siegel said his wife, Linda, doesn’t want all the memorabilia coming home.
While the moving process has “taken longer than we both thought, there are no hard feelings,” Tokar said.
“In a way, it’s been good to have him around (the village hall) because I’ve had questions about things, like liquor license applications, that were taking place when he was mayor,” Tokar said.
Siegel — who was bestowed the title “mayor emeritus” by Tokar the night he took the reins — feels bad about the delay. He was apologetic about the piles of goodies stacked in his office when a reporter visited his office Wednesday.
“I’ve got four big plastic boxes full of pictures. There were 62 plaques and awards — 62 — that were hanging on the walls,” Siegel said.
Enlisting the help of family members should be helpful, Siegel said, as he combs through all the items that were given to him through the years.
“I took a lot of stuff out of here already. It’s hard. People keep coming in, wishing me well,” Siegel said. “It was a good run.”