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Article posted: 5/6/2013 1:06 PM

Keith Giagnorio aims to bring feuding board together

By Marie Wilson

All the important things and people in Keith Giagnorio's life are close.

His wife and children, his business, several members of his immediate family -- which includes nine siblings -- and even his second home, the Lombard village hall.

The newly elected president of the Lilac Village rose to the seat from a position as District 2 trustee. His home on Harrison Road keeps him nearby -- a two-minute drive without traffic, he says -- for whenever village business calls.

Like April 18. At 4:15 a.m.

It's nine days after Giagnorio, 51, beat John Lotus Novak and Moon Khan to earn the village president seat for the next four years. Although he hadn't yet taken the oath to claim Lombard's top post, Giagnorio finds himself riding around town with Village Manager David Hulseberg, beginning to assess flood damage and dangers after a soaking storm.

The floodwaters don't seem to care that Giagnorio's leadership has not yet been sealed as official. Responding to the disaster, assessing devastated homes, tracking damage estimates tallied by village staff -- the work keeps him on his toes all day.

"This has been an unbelievably good learning experience for me," he says, sneaking a cup of coffee between meetings with department heads and one-on-one sessions with trustees.

Flood response duty even follows Giagnorio to work, as he and his staff of six serve carryout pizzas at a Main Street shop bearing his family name, Giagnorio's Pizza.

"We don't deliver, so every single customer comes through this door," Giagnorio said. "People are asking about help with their basement flooding when they pick up dinner."

The shop is another two-minute drive from Giagnorio's home, where he lives with his wife, Angela, and his 21-year-old son Joseph. His 26-year-old daughter Ashley lives not far away in Winfield, where his mother, Viola, and one of his six sisters own another location of Giagnorio's Pizza.

The life as a local pizza shop owner was supposed to be temporary.

"I wanted to do it until I found a regular job," he said.

But he started the pizza business after college and it grew. And Giagnorio, whose life always has been centered in DuPage County, never did get that "regular job."

A history buff who always enjoyed studying the presidents and workings of the legislature, Giagnorio graduated from Elmhurst College in 1984 with a bachelor's in sociology and psychology.

In his free time, he enjoys playing Whiffle ball with friends and neighbors at Pasta Park, the informal ballfield next to his house, cheering on the Blackhawks and Bears and listening to the Beatles.

Growing up in Villa Park as one of 10 kids, Giagnorio learned about local political involvement from his father, Joseph, who was involved in York Township government.

He made his jump into local leadership in 2003 when he won election to the park board. As president of that board in 2009 and 2010, Giagnorio began working more closely with village staff members and late Village President Bill Mueller, especially on issues related to the completion of Paradise Bay Water Park.

The collaboration allowed him to learn what's involved in municipal leadership.

"I saw I'd be interested in doing it, and having my business here got me even more involved," Giagnorio said.

Now Giagnorio is not only involved, but in charge. He is taking over leadership of a board that spent most of the eight months since Mueller's death gridlocked over issues of succession, budgeting and fire department staffing.

"We're starting out with a common understanding that we've had enough of the eight months of fighting," Giagnorio said. "Obviously, we're not going to agree on everything, and hopefully we don't disagree on everything."

In between updates about flooding and afternoons at the pizza shop, Giagnorio said he scheduled individual meetings with each trustee -- including those whose votes often opposed his, Peter Breen and Laura Fitzpatrick.

On one divisive issue -- creating a succession plan in case the village president dies or becomes permanently unable to serve -- Giagnorio said Breen will be taking the lead. An idea Breen suggested in January would require trustees to vote shortly after each election on a president pro tem to fill in during any absence or illness of the village president.

Addressing this issue will serve a dual purpose, Giagnorio said. First, it will show residents the board has moved past its phase of division and can work together. It also will solve something that "has the potential to be a huge problem."

"My job the first few meetings," Giagnorio said, "is to convey to the public, our residents, that everything is going to be OK."

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