West Chicago, Illinois: May 18, 2012 - Third Ward Alderman Ruben Pineda was appointed acting mayor at the May 7, 2012 city council meeting following the unexpected passing of Mayor Mike Kwasman.
According to the Illinois Municipal Code, the City Council is empowered and required to elect one of its members to the position of Acting Mayor.
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Acting Mayor Ruben Pineda has lived in West Chicago for 51 years. He is one of four sons born to Julian and Juanita Pineda, migrant workers who picked cotton in Texas and moved north to Illinois for more work in the corn, bean and tomato fields in the DeKalb and Morris areas. Illinois gave Julian and Juanita a family and many opportunities for a better life, so they stayed. Recognizing the value of an education, Juanita made sure her children were bilingual in reading and writing before starting school. Acting Mayor Pineda attended Turner School, where he cleaned the lunchroom in exchange for his lunch, and later became State Wrestling Champ at the Jr. High School in 1974. Quite the athlete, he played in the Pop Warner football league before becoming Captain of the Community High School football team and Homecoming King in his final year at the school. He was an activist for student rights and worked with school administration to create a program which still exists today, the Student Support Project. His dad Julian died the year he graduated in 1978.
Acting Mayor Pineda credits great teachers and mentors like Mr. Bob Owens and Mrs. Patty Koslowski (Mrs. K) at school for his success. Following graduation, he attended Joliet Jr. College's Culinary School, due to a developing love for cooking, which was strongly influenced by Juanita's skills in the kitchen. (Several of his mother's recipes may be found in Stirring Up History, a cookbook produced by the West Chicago City Museum). "One of my fondest memories is returning to a High School Home Economics class to give a hands-on cooking class," he recalls. He also learned technique from Pastry Chef Charlie Wagner.
Following stints at West Chicago's St. Andrew's Golf and Country Club, and Geneva's Mill Race Inn, Acting Mayor Pineda took a job with Uncle Ben's Rice, then in St. Charles, while juggling work and school, but when the company moved to Texas he went into the construction business.
His record of public service began in 1998 when then Mayor Steve Lakis appointed him to fill Alderman John Smith's position when Smith moved out of his ward. This was a one-year term, after which he ran for re-election and has held his position in the third ward ever since. Acting Mayor Pineda was the first Hispanic alderman in the City of West Chicago. He contributed to such initiatives as the water treatment facility, the waste transfer station, Educare, Habitat for Humanity, several annexations and has worked actively on the committee to stop the Canadian National (CN) acquisition. Currently, his number one priority is the CN quiet zone designation.
"My leadership-style is simple. I am a straight-shooter who wants an issue well-researched to make sure all sides are presented. While I have represented the third ward up until now, I feel well-connected with the whole City due to my active involvement with the community as a whole."
Crediting Mayor Kwasman's progressive vision for the city, Acting Mayor Pineda is committed to carrying that vision forward. "I had many conversations with Mayor Kwasman over the years, in which we shared ideas and goals for the city. Getting downtown redeveloped, bringing more business to the center of our community and developing the Roosevelt Road corridor were just a few of those goals," he said.
Acting Mayor Pineda has been married for almost 22 years to his wife Julie, and credits her with encouraging his active involvement in the community. Both have been involved with the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for the past 10 years by raising funds through Bowling for Diabetes and Golf for a Cure, events they organized with Len and Willine Mahony, two other longtime West Chicago residents. "Julie has always been very supportive of my public service and understands the importance of giving back to a community that has given us so much."