How mayoral candidates would lead Naperville differently

  • Differences in leadership style separate challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor and incumbent Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, as they campaign for the April 2 election to become the city's next mayor.

      Differences in leadership style separate challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor and incumbent Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, as they campaign for the April 2 election to become the city's next mayor. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

Updated 2/12/2019 6:05 AM

Look no further than leadership style to help decide between the two candidates for Naperville mayor.

Incumbent Steve Chirico says the ways he and his opponent, Richard "Rocky" Caylor, plan to lead the city make "the defining difference between the two candidates."


Chirico, 58, says he will continue to set a vision for Naperville as a safe and desirable town with regional influence and financial stability, and he'll do so by building consensus with council members and considering the input of all segments of the community.

Caylor, 62, says he will never be a politician, but he'll lead Naperville as the city's "champion," always hearing and weighing the voices of the city's roughly 147,800 people.

Both candidates know the city operates with a council-manager form of government, in which the elected city council and mayor set policy and the hired city manager and his staff implement it with day-to-day work.

Yet Chirico, who has nearly completed his first term succeeding the late George Pradel, and Caylor, a newcomer waging his first campaign, seem to interpret the mayor's function slightly differently.

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Caylor, a Marine veteran and owner of Cadence Premier Logistics in Joliet, says after setting policy by listening to and campaigning for the needs of residents, it's the mayor's job to "back away from the city staff and let the city manager do his job."

"The mayor of Naperville has a lot of responsibilities, but we're not Chicago," Caylor said.

Chirico, whose business, Great Western Flooring, is now run by his daughters while he works full time as mayor, uses the analogy of a ship in need of a course. The mayor is the rudder, steering the ship and giving it direction, he says, while the city manager is the paddle, propelling the ship forward.

"A leader without a vision and without an agenda is not a leader -- it's like a ship without a rudder," he said.

Chirico said Caylor's plan of listening to residents first and foremost is flawed because it's one-sided.

"If you just listen to neighbors when you talk about development, then the fact is that development will never happen. So you have to look at the entire community," Chirico said, listing business operators, city staff members and transportation experts as other important voices to bear in mind. "You need to have a much broader vision."


During an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald, Chirico said his vision calls for work on four main initiatives: policing programs to ensure public safety, economic development efforts to form a secure tax base for schools and parks, sustainability projects to preserve the environment, and actions to address gaps in the types and prices of housing in the city.

"As mayor, I have been a leader that has been very clear about my vision about what Naperville needs to do to take us to that next level as a city," Chirico said, "especially in terms of financial principles and long-term financial planning."

Caylor said he, too, has a vision for Naperville, forming a "community of purpose" in which "people are always first," while preserving the destinations that make the city popular. He said he is willing to give the city as much of his time as the job demands, and he looks forward to helping with development and infrastructure projects through his experience working with state and federal agencies.

"I come in as a leader -- not because of the position and not because it's powerful and not because I have an agenda," Caylor said. "I come in because I have a vision. I know that I can help."

Listening will always be central to Caylor's approach.

"I'm only better when I hear what you want and what we need ... " Caylor said. "I will be the champion as well as the executive and represent the people. Your voices matter, and your voices will be considered."

Naperville voters will choose the next mayor in the April 2 election. Four of eight seats on the city council also are up for election this spring, with 11 candidates seeking the positions.

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