Endorsement: Mae Brandon for Mayor of Park Forest

Mae Brandon for Mayor of Park Forest
Mae Brandon for Mayor of Park Forest. (Photo: Supplied)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- This election season is near an end, and soon, the residents of Park Forest, Illinois, will welcome their first new mayor in a score of years. Six, then three, then four, and finally five took the initiative and put themselves on the line as candidates. One has stood out above the rest, and, through it all, we are proud to endorse Mae Brandon for Mayor of Park Forest.

I have known Mae since 2003 when Mayor Ostenburg nominated her to serve the remainder of former trustee Ron Wilson. Some may not know that name at all. Trustee Brandon was a welcome replacement for Mr. Wilson, who resigned over a resolution and then attempted to take his resignation back. At the time I was on the Village Board two weeks when we accepted Mayor Ostenburg’s recommendation to fill the vacant seat on the board with Mae Brandon, who applied for the seat. Since being sworn in on the Village Board 15 some-odd years ago, Ms. Brandon has been a steady, calming, level-headed presence during periods that saw other erratic board members. Mae Brandon’s focus has always been the people of Park Forest and the good of this Village. She never lowered herself to the level of some of those less-than-level-headed who managed to gain a seat on the board — most of whom lasted one term or less, depending on how terms were defined through the years.

During the course of the current campaign, Ms. Brandon has correctly referred to her experience as one of the many qualities that set her apart from the others seeking to wield the gavel. During her time as mayor pro tempore, or mayor pro tem, she has presided at meetings with confidence and decorum.

We look forward to watching Ms. Brandon continue to establish herself independent of Mayor Ostenburg. His mantle runs 20 years. His institutional memory of Park Forest is second to none.

But Mae Brandon enjoys a rich background on the history and potential future of Park Forest. She would serve well as Mayor, and Park Foresters would do well to vote for her with confidence.

Mae Brandon’s Competition

We applaud Jon Vanderbilt’s courageous campaign for mayor, but his views are scattered, his experience wanting. He excels in volunteerism. He has organized workshops to guide people through the convoluted process of challenging property tax assessments. He is an enthusiastic and hard-working trustee. But he lacks a focus. He has not clearly expressed a vision for his campaign, We’re concerned about some of the groups he has cozied up to, among them, local Realtors. The Realtors printed and mailed a piece for Mr. Vanderbilt. The Realtors association has long pressured the Village to change inspection policies. This direct involvement in Park Forest elections by a special-interest group with an agenda that’s at odds with long-established policies of the town disturbs us. Where would Mr. Vanderbilt’s loyalties lie? What promises would he feel obliged to honor?

We encourage Mr. Vanderbilt to continue to learn how honest government works in Park Forest. He’s not there yet.

We find no reason to trust JeRome Brown at all. In past campaigns, he has vowed to rid the town of the position of Village Manager and run the entire government as mayor — an impossible task given that Park Forest’s government is set by statute. His ignorance — or willful ignorance — of Park Forest government disqualifies him as a serious candidate. His insistence, after numerous corrections, at mispronouncing fellow candidate Renee Hawthorne’s last name during public forums was mean-spirited, childish, and a clear indicator of the unstable temperament he would bring to any elected position.

Renee Hawthorne simply ran a sloppy campaign from beginning to end. Her carelessness with her petitions kept her from the official ballot. So she launched a write-in campaign. However, she only registered her candidacy with once county: Cook. No votes written in for her in Will County will be tallied. She did talk her way onto the forums, but the carelessness with which she conducted her campaign gives strong indication of how she would serve in elected office. Besides, where does her fealty lie? She mentioned School District 163 and Chicago several times during the forums. Is she more interested in serving as mayor of Park Forest, or a member-at-large of School District 163? Or even Chicago?

Sean P. Hightower speaks well of Park Forest, but he too was careless with his initial paperwork to get on the ballot. He is registered as a write-in candidate in both Will and Cook Counties. We encourage him to involve himself by serving on a commission, perhaps taking a Civic Leadership Academy class in Park Forest. He certainly needs to put in more time than he has in the past to getting to know Park Forest. If he does so, a run for the Village Board as Trustee might be in his future. What to watch out for? He did appear at times to have an ax to grind, particularly toward the police, which seemed to motivate his desire to initiate a residency requirement for village personnel. Such perceived bitterness does not serve the public well. But he can move beyond that given time and effort.

Mae Brandon for Mayor

Which brings us back to the only candidate who have a vision, even if she won’t “promise” it. Mae Brandon clearly puts Park Forest first, puts principles and policies above personalities, and will work for the benefit of all residents of the Village. We look forward to seeing how she moves beyond John Ostenburg and establishes her own style. We also hope she does not get swept up in titles from outside organizations as Mayor Ostenburg did from time to time. The National League of Cities is important, but Park Forest needs a mayor to focus on this town like a surgeon.

Mae Brandon has that focus.

We encourage all to vote for Mae Brandon for Mayor of Park Forest. Mae Brandon will serve us well.

The writer is Editor and Publisher of eNews Park Forest. He once served on the Park Forest Village Board and may very well run to serve again in the future. But not this year.

Edited for typos on March 29, 2019 at 11:44 AM.