Remembering George Pradel: What community leaders are saying

Daily Herald report
Updated 9/4/2018 4:36 PM

Here's what some who knew him are saying about former Naperville Mayor George Pradel.

"Mayor Pradel never tried to be someone special. To him, everyone else was special. Amid scores of projects and city council agenda items stood an elected leader who constantly reminded us of our higher calling -- to serve and love one another. Forsaking heated policy debates, during the struggle over difficult issues, George often said that his plan was to 'Pray for everyone.' ... He should be remembered as one of the most humble and moral political leaders in the history of Illinois local government." -- Peter Burchard, former Naperville city manager


"He never was too busy to get down at eye level with kids and talk to them about how they can make a difference and how important they are. ... He never missed a ribbon-cutting. He always came in with the same enthusiasm and excitement for new business owners." -- Nicki Anderson, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO

"I remember when he helped to put together just the small things, such as a parade for the high school football team that won the state championship back in 2007 and 2008. My son was on that team. I remember thanking him. He turned that around and said, 'Boy, we thank the kids for working so hard to create a championship.' He always kind of reversed the thanks and put the thanks back on the people and the community." -- Naperville Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis

"Mayor Pradel taught me so much about being in public service. It's not always about facts and figures; it's about creating relationships. When you talked to him, you felt you were the most important person in the world." -- Naperville City Council member John Krummen

"His passion was crime prevention and educating the youth of our town to be safe ... He cared so much about people that it was sometimes hard for him to actually write a citation or make an arrest." -- Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall

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"It's just incredible to see what he became, from being Officer Friendly, where all the kids adored him, to being our mayor. He just had the biggest heart. ... He believed every single syllable of what he said about this town. He was what we needed when Naperville was growing." -- Naperville City Council member Becky Anderson

"Everyone looked up to him like their second dad or something. It was an honor to serve with him; it was an honor to work with him. He was a public servant for all those years -- never stopped giving back; never stopped giving." -- Naperville City Council member Paul Hinterlong

"Great leaders always make an impact. Mayor George Pradel made his impact not only on the institutional workings of Naperville, but on the hearts of her citizens. I don't believe there was ever a person who came in contact with Mayor Pradel who did not leave a happier person after meeting him." -- DuPage County Board member Tonia Khouri of Aurora

"He left his mark of family and being a very honorable man and serving, not only our community, but serving as a Marine. His focus was always on family and children and faith. Sometimes people move away from what really is important, and I think he always kept it true." -- Naperville City Council member Patty Gustin


"He always found the positive. You could come to him with a sad story and he would be empathetic, compassionate and he would find some way to make the situation better." -- DuPage Forest Preserve Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli of Naperville

"There wasn't anything that George Pradel wouldn't do for Naperville or for a friend, and he considered everyone who lived in town a friend. He was a beacon of all that was good." -- State Rep. Grant Wehrli of Naperville, former Naperville City Council member

"All the years he was mayor, he would give a greeting at the graduation for North Central College. He would say 'Hello from Naperville!' to an audience of a few thousand people, only some of whom knew him. It was immediately charming and disarming. I have seen very famous people who were going to be the graduation speaker to follow him who thought, 'Oh, look at what I have to follow because no one is going to get a reception like that.'" -- Naperville City Council member Judith Brodhead

"If you're a leader in this community, Mayor Pradel set the example, and there was no phoniness, no agendas. He spoke from his heart and was just a loving, caring guy." -- Ray McGury, Naperville Park District executive director and former Naperville police officer

"George Pradel was a one-of-a-kind public servant. His gregarious, welcoming personality helped shape Naperville's reputation as a family-friendly, growing, thriving community. As the face of the city, Mayor Pradel took his responsibility as an ambassador very seriously and he gave selflessly of his time and energy." -- DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin

"No one loved Naperville more than George Pradel. He had a huge heart and he was also a big fan of law enforcement and public safety ... He approached public service with a passion and enthusiasm you just don't see these days. It wasn't just a show with George. That was coming straight from his heart." -- DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin

"Mayor Pradel represented the entire city and all of her diversity so beautifully. He had a zest to learn and a passion to bring the community together. Every time you met him, you always left with a smile on your face." -- Saily Joshi, co-chairwoman of Parent Diversity Advisory Council in Indian Prairie Unit District 204

"Former Naperville Mayor George Pradel was an extraordinary leader, partner and citizen. We will always remember his unabashed enthusiasm for the city of Naperville and incredible support for Edward Hospital and Edward-Elmhurst Health. His presence alone was enough to boost spirits. Add that booming voice and infectious energy, and we couldn't help but tackle the rest of our day with a little more bounce in our step and smile on our face." -- Mary Lou Mastro, System CEO, Edward-Elmhurst Health

"Mayor Pradel was absolutely a one-of-a-kind man; a cheerleader for Naperville; and a champion for children in the community." -- Kimberly Stull, director of exhibits and operations, DuPage Children's Museum

"He was the epitome of a huge cheerleader for the city. He will leave a lasting imprint on this community." -- Kim White, executive director of the Community Career Center in Naperville

"George was a wonderful man. I remember him from decades ago when he was Officer Friendly and walked the beat in downtown Naperville. Everyone loved him then, he was the most loved policeman in town." -- Illinois Tollway Chairman Robert Schillerstrom

"Without question, his passing leaves a void in leadership and laughter ... For 20 years, George served as mayor of Naperville and did so with the utmost class, deepest compassion and sincerest spirit of collaboration. He raised the bar time and time again and set a high standard for municipal leadership." -- Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin

"As mayor, George Pradel brought the same pioneering vision and forwarding-looking leadership that first put Naperville on the map. His passion for the job, his reverence for its history and his joy at its future were evident each and every day." -- State Sen. Michael Connelly of Naperville

"He made countless visits to our schools during his decades of service. Each visit was filled with an unmatched energy and enthusiasm. He was an incredible cheerleader for children in this community." -- Karen Sullivan, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 superintendent

"His larger-than-life presence in our schools and his commitment to public service made him a wonderful example to our students. His passion for education will forever be imprinted on the Naperville 203 community." -- Dan Bridges, Naperville Unit District 203 superintendent

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