Giving further praise to a former political opponent, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb recently broadcast his hope that John Hedges will stay on as executive director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation.
Hedges, a former Park District of Oak Park head and one-time acting village manager, was named as the EDC’s interim executive director earlier this year, following an announcement that the corporation would undergo a revitalization that included new administrative hires and a bigger budget.
At the time, Abu-Taleb, who had defeated Hedges in a race for the position of village president less than a year earlier, praised the appointment as a move that was “very important to the village and to me personally.”
Abu-Taleb reiterated that faith in Hedges during a public forum on July 2, at which a resident asked officials about where the EDC was at in naming a permanent executive director.
“I cannot think of anybody who I would choose to present Oak Park to these developers the way [Hedges] does,” said Abu-Taleb, who serves on the EDC’s board of directors.
Founded in 1974 and restructured earlier this year, the EDC is a non-profit group that works to spur development and “acts as a catalyst between developers, property and business owners, and village staff and officials,” according to the organization’s website.
The corporation currently has its fingerprints on a number of projects in Oak Park, including the redevelopment of the Colt Building property in the village’s downtown area, for which it recently secured a $12.5 million incentive package.
The EDC is also trying to nail down a developer for a proposed 11-story mixed-use development at the corner Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard and is involved in finalizing the financing for a $98 million development at Lake Street and Forest Avenue.
Abu-Taleb said that he saw Hedges, who also served as a village trustee in the past, as being essential to the completion of projects like these in the village.
“I want to make sure that Oak Park moves forward on [economic development], and I think he is the right guy for the job,” he said.
Hedges preceded Sara Faust, the organization’s former director, who resigned as part of the overhaul of the agency, formerly known as the Oak Park Development Corporation.
Whether or not he stays in the position remains contingent on a number of factors, but Hedges, who came out of retirement to take the temporary post, said that it was certainly something to consider.
“I’m enjoying what I’m doing right now,” he said.
Hedges said that the decision to pursue the job would ultimately be made between himself and the “real boss,” his wife.
If he does show interest, Hedges could make a strong bid to stay on permanently, said EDC Chairman Marty Noll.
“You don’t rock the boat if it’s working well,” he said. “John really likes his job, and he likes the progress we’re making.”
Noll said that organization has been approached by a number of hopeful candidates and that it is looking to wrap up the hiring of a permanent executive director sometime around September.