34-year-old Des Plaines mayor says he's retiring from politics
Only 34 years old, Des Plaines Mayor Matthew Bogusz is young enough to have a long political career ahead of him.
But as his second mayoral term comes to a close, Bogusz talks of spending more time with his wife and young children, not of running for the state House or Congress or any other office.
He sounds like a man who's ready to leave the campaign trail behind.
"I'm fairly confident I'm a retired politician," Bogusz recently told the Daily Herald.
Bogusz was 26 years old when elected mayor in 2013, defeating 75-year-old former mayor Tony Arredia and becoming the youngest to hold that office in city history. He also was the youngest mayor in the Northwest suburbs.
Bogusz's public service in Des Plaines started much earlier, when he was a student at Northwestern University. In 2006, he was appointed to the Des Plaines special events commission. The following year, he was named to the Des Plaines Public Library board, a nonelected group of mayoral appointees.
Election to the Ward 3 seat on the city council followed in 2009, when he was 22 and fresh out of college.
Looking back, Bogusz cited the efforts to deal with the financial crisis that began with the 2008 recession as a key accomplishment of his time as an elected official.
Through solid financial management, the city's debt from loans decreased from $76 million in 2009 to $12 million as of this year. City leaders also have managed to maintain what Bogusz called healthy reserve funds -- cash that proved valuable during the pandemic-triggered recession.
"We planned for the eventuality of needing cash on hand," Bogusz said.
Keeping a promise to spend the city's share of revenue from the Rivers Casino on nothing but debt reduction and infrastructure projects was a critical part of that financial plan, Bogusz said. The casino has generated $79 million for Des Plaines since opening in 2011, officials have said.
The decision to rely on savings to pay for projects rather than borrowing more money and running up interest helped reduce that debt, too, Bogusz said. As a result, the city has avoided dramatically slashing spending or raising taxes, he said.
Des Plaines, Bogusz said, is "moving in the right direction."
"(But) we'd be naive and just wrong to say the job's done," he said. "It's never done."
Fifth Ward Alderman Carla Brookman -- an occasional political foe of Bogusz's -- said it's been "a pleasure" working with the mayor.
"The administration and council worked well together," she said.
Bogusz will be succeeded as the city's top elected official by current 8th Ward Alderman Andrew Goczkowski, who defeated two other candidates in the this month's election and will take office May 3.
As the mayor-elect, Goczkowski said he hopes to build upon the progress Bogusz, the council and city staffers have made in recent years.
"We definitely benefit from (that)," Goczkowski said. "We have so many more options."
Goczkowski looks forward to talking with Bogusz in the weeks to come about what he called the "nuts and bolts" of the job.
"I think it will be a smooth transition," Goczkowski said.
Goczkowski believes he and Bogusz have similar visions for the city but different styles. He plans to focus on improving communication with residents, something many have said is lacking at city hall.
Since launching his political career, Bogusz married his wife, Kaitlyn, and welcomed two children -- Jacqueline, now 4, and Matthew, 1½.
He wants to focus on them now and insists he has no plans to run for office again.
Bogusz, who works in advertising, is proud of his time as an elected official in Des Plaines. Still, he paused when asked if he accomplished everything he set out to do as mayor. Anyone who says yes, he finally answered, "probably wasn't trying hard enough."
"I think we've taken good bites at the apple," Bogusz said.