Most political candidates see an election campaign as exhausting. Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton sees his as therapeutic.
In a recent conversation with the Evergreen Park Patch, Sexton said his bid for a fourth term is helping him recover from the West Nile virus that struck him last summer. From being bedridden, to using a wheelchair and then a walker, Sexton is now walking unaided although slowly and deliberately. There is more physical therapy to be endured, “but I am way ahead of the curve,” he said about his recovery.
“I think it’s good I’m running. I need the wherewithal. I need the challenge. It’s no more difficult than physical therapy,” Sexton said.
He spent three weeks in intensive care at Advocate Christ Medical Center. He then spent five weeks re-learning simple skills like how to get out of bed. Physical therapy intensified at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
“Things really started to come together, thanks to great therapists,” Sexton said.
He also credited his five grandchildren for propelling him forward. He gave them a promise in September that he would walk with them, house to house on Halloween. He accomplished his goal.
“There are challenges you set yourself up for in life and you’ve got to produce,” Sexton said.
Projects that Sexton has initiated are also coming to fruition; and that’s another reason he’s running for mayor. He wants to see them through.
“There’s a lot on my plate and I didn’t think it was time to hang it up,” Sexton said.
Two projects in particular are at the top of Sexton’s list to complete: Evergreen Plaza and the seven-acre site that used to house Webb Ford. Both are located on 95th Street. Both have positive possibilities. A new grocery store may get its introduction to the Chicago area in the old Webb Ford site and new developer is looking over the Plaza site.
“I’m in the midst of talking with them,” Sexton said of the Debartolo Group, a real estate development company out of Florida, who is doing its 60-day due diligence. Many questions are being asked and answers given. Such questions include will Carson’s stay, what other retailers can they get, and what would it cost to rebuild the Plaza?
“I am confident the new developer can do it,” Sexton said.
After the 60 days are complete, Sexton said he would know more, including the decision regarding whether or not Debartolo will take on the project of rebuilding the Plaza.
“I think they will,” he said.
New businesses in other designated areas are also a priority and the village has a record of bringing in such eateries as Famous Dave’s and the soon-to-be opened Culvers. Evergreen Park will also boast of a Meijer and Menards.
The mayor and the village staff are also working on bringing Walgreens to the southeast corner of 95th and Pulaski, where a muffler shop now stands. At the recent zoning board meeting citizens were concerned on how it would affect the surrounding residential neighborhood and Sexton, who lives one house off a commercial area, understands their apprehension.
Sexton said he doesn’t want any of the neighbors “disrupted” and that their concerns, such as increased traffic and where to place exits and entrances so they can ease the burdens on the neighborhood can all be worked out with the developer.
Walgreens still needs to go before the Village Board and the building commissioner before ground can be broken. “There’s a lot of work to de done there,” said Sexton.
Sexton knows about the work that needs to be done to bring a business to town, or an idea to reality, both as an appointee and elected official. He was named to the Youth Commission in 1983 and the Police Commission in 1985. He was first elected in 1987 as a trustee. He was appointed village clerk in 1995 and elected mayor in 2001.
In addition to keeping the town financially healthy, Sexton is proud of the fact that the village offers parks and playgrounds, including the new 50-acre park on what was the old golf course near 91st and California. He’s also proud of the continued public safety of the villagers and keeping the day to day operation of the village on an even keel.
Sexton grew up in Little Flower Parish in the neighborhood just north of Beverly in Chicago. He married his wife, Karen, 39 years ago. They settled in Evergreen Park 37 years ago.
“I used to think my parents were strange because they lived in one house all their lives. Now it looks like I’ll live all my life in one house,” he laughed.
In that house Sexton and his wife raised three children who have since married and are raising their children in Evergreen Park.
“That’s a phenomenon in Evergreen Park and there is lots of that happening here,” Sexton said. “It’s a testament to a good neighborhood.