Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of mayoral candidates in the Northwest suburbs that will run in coming weeks.
On the campaign trail, Des Plaines mayoral candidate Matt Bogusz said he's repeatedly heard residents call for new blood in the mayor's office.
Bogusz, 26, who is completing his first term as 3rd Ward alderman, said he is the best option of the three candidates vying for the seat to provide a new direction for the city.
"What I hear now is people want to continue the progress that we've already delivered," he said. "I think people want to be proud of their government. They are sick of being embarrassed by it."
Bogusz is up against former Des Plaines Mayor Tony Arredia, 75, and 6th Ward Aldermen Mark Walsten, 55, in the April 9 consolidated election.
Bogusz is running on a platform of delivering healthy municipal finances, government that performs predictably, and ethics reform.
Bogusz said he has been mocked by his opponents for being too young or lacking the experience to lead a city of roughly 60,000 people -- criticism he counters by emphasizing his work as alderman.
"In the last four years, the impact that we have had on the fiscal health of the city of Des Plaines has been nothing short of dramatic," said Bogusz, who for the last two years has served as chairman of the city's finance committee.
Bogusz said he has worked hard to fully understand city operations and the budget process. He said his biggest accomplishment on the city council has been helping the city reduce its bonded debt from $82 million in 2009 to $58 million in 2013, increasing its savings from $1.7 million in 2009 to an anticipated $18 million in 2013, and keeping the property tax levy increases at 0 percent over the last three years.
Today, the city administration is looking for opportunities to pay down debt early, and is operating much leaner with its workforce about 12 percent smaller in size than in 2009, Bogusz said.
"When we understand the history, we will be more prepared to not repeat it and not suffer from the same mistakes that we made in the past," Bogusz said.
Bogusz also is proud of getting the city council to adopt a resolution he drafted on spending gambling revenues from Rivers Casino, which he vetted with 3rd Ward residents.
Bogusz, a former director of the Boy Scouts of America Northwest Suburban Council, previously served on the city's Special Events Commission and two years on the Des Plaines Public Library board. He currently is a legislative committee member of the Northwest Municipal Conference.
"I've demonstrated over four years what I'm capable of," Bogusz said. "We are a changing town. I'm a first-time homebuyer. I have a lot of friends who are going through the same process. As we continue to evolve, maybe we need to think differently about how we provide service."
Bogusz said the three candidates have different approaches, and he believes in shaping Des Plaines for the next generation of residents.
"I'm more of a leader by example," said Bogusz, who is associate director for an advertising company, Starcom MediaVest Group. "I'd rather show you the way or work together with you on the path forward than dictate or demand. One of my biggest strengths is that I know what I don't know, and I openly and willingly admit that I don't know everything."
Bogusz's willingness to work collaboratively with residents on issues is what impressed 40-year 3rd Ward resident Gil Ostenson, who has been attending Bogusz's ward meetings since a 2011 flood affected his neighborhood of Westfield Gardens.
"I think he's done an excellent job as alderman," said the 71-year-old retired tool and die maker. "I was quite affected by the flood. He was able to get some engineering studies done to determine why those areas flooded and how they can be corrected."
Ostenson said Bogusz worked with the city's engineering department to get Honeywell UOP, a manufacturing company at the corner of Mount Prospect and Algonquin roads, to excavate and enlarge its retention pond so water wouldn't overflow into neighborhood residents' yards.
Ostenson also was impressed with Bogusz's work on the finance committee.
"Turning the city's financial situation around in four years is almost amazing," Ostenson said. "(Bogusz) deserves an opportunity to continue what he's doing. A bright, energetic young guy sitting in the mayor's chair would certainly be an advantage to the city going forward."
Ÿ To see all our Des Plaines election coverage, including candidate questionnaires, go to https://www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/race/Des-Plaines-Mayor/.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.