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Posted on August 11, 2023 at 11:54 AM by James Guirguis
When I first announced that I would be a candidate for the Mayor of Park Forest, I adopted the slogan “It’s not about ME, It’s about WE!” Now that I am in Office, my goal is to make that slogan a reality.
Several years ago, in an appearance at Freedom Hall, the late Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis, used the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to describe Park Forest as “A beloved community.” He did so after hearing about the history of our Village and meeting and conversing with some of our citizens. That’s a serious and sober moniker to live up to, and I believe we are capable of doing so.
Community is about “we.” The word has a variety of derivations but basically means “coming together.” Over the years, many of the accomplishments and amenities that our Village has enjoyed have resulted from its citizens coming together to meet important goals.
• When it became obvious in the late 1940s that it was time to move from being just a housing development to a municipality, the residents came together at a tent meeting to discuss the next steps. It was the citizens themselves who decided what form of government we would have, what our town’s name would be, what elective offices would be created to serve the citizens’ needs.
• When cities and towns across the nation were opposing racial integration in housing, it was a group of citizens in Park Forest—not the local government—that decided to voluntarily integrate our neighborhoods. It was only much later that a policy of promoting racial integration was adopted by the Village government.
• When some of the early residents of Park Forest decided that more recreational opportunities were needed, especially for young people, they came together in a citizen effort to build and finance the Aqua Center. Some contributed financially by buying stock in the center, others worked as a contribution of “sweat equity” to the project.
• As the 1976 bicentennial of the founding of our nation approached, some members of the Park Forest community wanted to mark the occasion in a special way. The result? Citizen donations to build Freedom Hall as a community center. Incidentally, the African-American residents of Park Forest ran an additional fundraising campaign to create the Dr. Martin Luther King Room at Freedom Hall.
These are just a few examples of the steps we have taken over the years to earn Congressman Lewis’ designation as “A beloved community.” But times change and there are new things that must be done in order to retain that honorable distinction. I am keenly aware that the past needs of the “we” of Park Forest are not necessarily the current needs, or of the future needs. As the citizenry has changed, and continues to change, so must our government change in order to serve everyone in the very best ways possible.
It is with that aim in mind that I intend to spend as much time as I can, reaching out to our residents for their input. No doubt, some of that input will come in the form of criticism for the way some things are done; however, I am confident that even more so it will come in positive suggestions for the direction in which we need to move.
So here are a few steps that will be taken in the days ahead to better understand the needs of our “we.”
• Watch for a revival of the neighborhood meeting concept, where the Board and staff come directly into your neighborhood to give updates on what’s happening, to answer your questions, and to hear your suggestions.
• Invite me to attend any of the events you have planned, in your neighborhood, at your schools, or in your churches. You may be sure that it is my intention to be there, and that I will listen to what you have to say, and will give your words the serious consideration that they deserve.
• We will be looking for more volunteers to participate in our volunteer boards and commissions, and even may be creating some new commissions on which you may participate.
I am humbled, hopeful, and honored to serve as your Mayor. I am honored to be an elected official of a Village that has been described as “A beloved community.” Most importantly, I am honored to work side-by-side with you to address the needs of all our residents.
Park Forest, let us stand up in all our glory!
Mayor Joesph A. Woods
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