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Article updated: 10/23/2012 7:00 PM

Bensenville mayor faces challenge from former ally

Frank Soto

Frank Soto

 
Oronzo Peconio

Oronzo Peconio

 
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Bensenville Village President Frank Soto will face a re-election challenge in April from his former political ally, Trustee Oronzo Peconio.

Peconio has assembled a new party, "Bensenville First," saying the community needs "more jobs, more businesses and more common sense from village hall."

But Soto says he has worked hard to reinvent Bensenville's image and turn around its finances since the village was voted No. 1 among "America's Fastest-Dying Towns" in 2008 by Forbes magazine.

The two men ran together on a party slate for their respective positions in 2009 when Soto defeated longtime Village President John Geils. Now, Peconio was the first to pull a nominating packet for the president's post.

Longtime resident Mark Keane also has pulled a packet and said he will run for an elected post, although he has not decided if he will challenge Soto. Keane operates a website that says he will run for park district commissioner in April, but on Tuesday he said "don't count me out of any position."

Soto hasn't taken a packet yet, but said he will run on a slate with incumbent trustees Martin O'Connell, Henry Wesseler and incumbent Clerk Susan Violet Janowiak. The group is seeking one more candidate to campaign on its slate for the third open trustee post.

"My first concern before worrying about getting signatures was to complete our 2013 budget," Soto said.

Peconio said concerns about the budget and spending are part of the reason he chose to run. His running mates are longtime residents John Tornabene, who is retired after working for the Illinois Department of Transportation for 32 years; Frank DeSimone, a homicide detective in a neighboring village and volunteer coach for the Bensenville Boys Athletic Association; and Rayleen Panicola, who operated a convenience store with her husband for more than 23 years and now works in the banking industry. Rosa Carmona, who manages a dental clinic in Elmhurst, is running with them for village clerk.

"Unfortunately, the current administration has used smoke and mirrors to juggle budgets, hired a multitude of outside consultants, and upper-management salaries have skyrocketed since 2009," Peconio said in a written release.

Soto, though, says he has worked hard to reinvent Bensenville's image and turn around its finances since taking office. He said his efforts included revamping Bensenville's industrial park, raising the village's bond rating to A+ by Standard & Poor's in 2010, and bringing in key administrators that year. He conceded that some management salaries did climb, but said operating costs are lower than when he took office.

"Some of the salaries are incentive-based, just like you run a business," Soto said. "We are doing more with less. There are instances of raises if you hit certain objectives and save dollars for the residents. If you want to go backward, you could go with less qualified people."

Peconio said salaries aren't his only budget concern. He said too many businesses have closed.

"There are too many vacant store fronts in Bensenville," he said in the release. "We need to leverage our relationship with O'Hare International Airport and drive businesses to relocate to our community."

Soto said any shuttered businesses collapsed either due to their own inability to operate or due to changing market trends. He said sales tax revenues are roughly 24 percent higher than last year.

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