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updated: 3/20/2013 11:06 AM

Arredia relying on legacy to win back Des Plaines mayor's seat

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  • Tony Arredia

      Tony Arredia

 
 

Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of mayoral candidates in the Northwest suburbs that will run in coming weeks.

"I never thought I'd ever run again," said former Des Plaines mayor Tony Arredia, who at 75 is still active in the community and civic organizations.

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Yet disappointed with the direction the city is headed, Arredia has mounted a bid to reclaim the seat he lost in April 2009 to voter-imposed limits on having more than two consecutive terms.

"It just seems that there's no direction there and I think a lot of it is a result of term limits," Arredia said.

Since leaving office, Arredia has been working as director of government relations for Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, a job he will relinquish if elected.

Arredia said he's up to the task of putting in 60 hours to 70 hours a week as mayor, like he used to before leaving office, even though the job is part-time with a yearly salary of $9,000.

It's a multigenerational mayoral race in Des Plaines.

Arredia is up against two sitting aldermen, Matt Bogusz, 26, (3rd Ward), and Mark Walsten, 55, (6th Ward), in the April 9 consolidated election.

Arredia is Des Plaines' second-longest serving mayor -- after Herbert H. Behrel, who served from 1957 until 1976.

Arredia was 8th Ward alderman for six years before being appointed mayor Jan. 5, 2000, replacing Paul W. Jung, who died in office. The soft-spoken Arredia said he was determined then to make the blue-collar city into a "major player" in the suburbs.

Arredia said his experience offers him a leg up over his opponents, adding that his legacy speaks for itself as to how effective a mayor he would be.

"I want to do what I do best ... bring in businesses," said Arredia listing the names of several large businesses he helped draw to the city's industrial district. "You've got to go courting them. It's hard work but we were able to bring in a lot of developers and a lot of businesses."

Arredia takes credit for the $90 million investment in downtown that built Metropolitan Square and brought new retail shops, the Shop & Save grocery store, restaurants, condominiums and a parking garage to the nine acres north of Miner Street. Today, vacancies abound, but he said it was 80 percent occupied when he left office.

"I guarantee I'll have that Metropolitan Square filled up in a year," Arredia said, adding that the city should try to ease the burden of businesses that are leaving downtown due to high rents.

Arredia said Des Plaines winning the license to build Rivers Casino, the state's largest grossing casino, was largely due to his leadership.

Arredia wants to explore phase two of the casino development plan, which calls for building a hotel and a shopping area near the casino.

"It's still on the drawing board and we have to talk about it," Arredia said. "That was part of the agreement with Midwest Gaming. And when a developer backs out, you go get another developer."

Arredia's legacy includes controversies. To this day, city officials are taking heat over tax increment financing districts that were established to spur redevelopment. One is expected to be $19.7 million in deficit over its lifetime.

As mayor, Arredia worked tirelessly for the city, said longtime resident and Vietnam War veteran Steve Schaefer.

"He was a hard-charging person. He was always everywhere, involved, talking with people and he was someone that was always trying to do something better for the city," said Schaefer, who served on the Special Events Commission when Arredia was mayor. "It wasn't always about him. It was about the city, and how it benefits the residents."

Arredia was a huge supporter of community events and tried to make the annual Veterans Day and Memorial Day programs at Lake Park bigger and better, said Schaefer, past commander of the Des Plaines Veterans of Foreign Wars post and president of Pillars of Honor, a nonprofit group showcasing the original model of the traveling World War II Memorial.

Arredia's top campaign issue remains alleviating flooding along the Des Plaines River, which also was his crowning achievement during his tenure, according to area leaders.

Arredia wants the city to pursue the second phase of Levee 50 to alleviate flooding west of the Des Plaines River. He also is concerned that the Buffalo Creek reservoir, which would serve as compensatory storage for waters held back by Levee 37, hasn't yet been built. Work has begun on the reservoir 2.3 miles upstream in Wheeling's Heritage Park.

• To see all our Des Plaines election coverage, including candidate questionnaires, go to https://www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/race/Des-Plaines-Mayor/.

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