For Naperville mayor: Steve Chirico

When Steve Chirico was elected Naperville mayor four years ago, he faced two key challenges: addressing budgetary challenges in the state's fourth-largest city and following the popular George Pradel.

He did both admirably, creating the post of mayor emeritus to keep Pradel involved as a city ambassador until his death and, more importantly, taking tough steps to get the budget in line by implementing the city's first home-rule sales tax and increasing taxes and fees on garbage service, telecommunications and hotel stays. He also worked to reduce the city's portion of property taxes by 15 percent over four years and reduce the number of employees per 1,000 residents to its lowest point in 50 years.

A businessman himself, Chirico is unabashedly pro-business and brings that perspective to the office with an organized approach and well thought-out vision for the city that includes filling empty storefronts; improving transportation, especially for rail commuters; and providing housing for recent college graduates and empty-nesters.

He has made a concerted effort to increase diversity on the city's boards and commissions, focusing on encouraging voices from different parts of the city as well as women and people of varying ethnic and racial backgrounds.

While he lacks the cuddly pizzazz of his predecessor - it's unlikely he'll have a Century Walk sculpture dedicated in his honor - he's a tough-minded, hands-on leader who is not afraid to take a stand.

His challenger in the April 2 election is Richard "Rocky" Caylor, a former Marine and logistics company president and CEO who says he'll stress wise development, increased social services and a diversity in housing stock to attract young families and keep seniors in town. Like Chirico, he'll be a full-time mayor but says he'll concentrate more on listening to residents and helping set policy for administrators to follow and then getting out of their way.

Chirico has had his stumbles - uncertainty over the development of the area around the 5th Avenue train station key among them - but we're impressed by his leadership skills and approach to the city's finances. Chirico is endorsed.

Richard "Rocky" Caylor
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