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Villa Park trustee candidates meet in forum, share plans for village

VILLA PARK — Candidates for the three open Villa Park trustee positions participated in a forum at Village Hall this week, where they focused on specific problems in the village and their plans to solve them.

Seven candidates are running to fill three at-large trustee seats on April 9. Trustees Robert Taglia and John Davis are running for re-election, and a third seat is open because Trustee Deborah Bullwinkel chose to run for village president rather than seek another term.

Davis has served as trustee since 2006, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board.

Repairing the village's streets is one of his biggest priorities, as well as increasing staffing of the fire, police and public works departments.

"We need to be getting our departments at full throttle," Davis said. "There's no way to do tree maintenance or even code enforcement without the proper tools."

Candidate Rich Biagioli wants to focus on business development and working to regain the trust of residents. Biagioli was hired with the Villa Park Fire Department in 2000, working there until he was injured eight years later.

He supported the village developing a strategic plan.

"We've had missed opportunities that other villages have capitalized on," Biagioli said. "I want business to expand, not delay their plans."

Tony Gurdak has lived in Villa Park for 50 years and previously served on the DuPage District 88 Board of Education.

Gurdak wants to see a business plan created that can be shown to potential developers in Villa Park. And with the additional revenue that would result from an increase in businesses, he said the village can make necessary repairs to infrastructure.

"We have yet to even take the first step to encouraging developers," Gurdak said. "We're looking for that initial phase that will get us over the hump ... . We've got successes all around — Lombard, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Addison — let's see what they did to be successful."

Candidate Greg Hassler grew up in Elmhurst and moved to Villa Park with his wife to raise their family. He proposed making developmental changes to St. Charles Road to deviate from the industrial businesses that currently line the thoroughfare, transitioning to an area that appeals to shoppers.

He also favored creating a park district in town.

"You've got to change the mindset," Hassler said. "'This is the way it's always been done.' We need to get away from that mindset."

Rodney Pate, a 21-year resident, is involved in the Summerfest Commission and Villa Park Community Foundation.

Like many of the candidates, Pate also wants to see new business growth. He supported condensing and consolidating the village's code book to make it easier for businesses to open.

"Make (businesses) feel like, 'I'm doing this because I want you to be here,'" he said. "Once you get one good group in, word gets on the street that Villa Park really works with you."

The second incumbent trustee, Robert Taglia, has been on the board since 2009.

Taglia said he's optimistic about some recent developments in the village, like the Sonic restaurant that opened on Roosevelt Road last year. He said the village has been aggressive about seeking out new business opportunities, but in order to be successful, there needs to be good working relationships among trustees.

"Listen to people, be considerate of their ideas and be a little forgiving, too," Taglia said.

Candidate Robert Wagner, who has served on the library board for 15 years including as board president, also once served for two years as village trustee.

Wagner was enthusiastic about some recent property developments along North Avenue and the new medical building on Villa Avenue.

"We need to develop a 10-year, comprehensive, strategic plan for dealing with failing roads and sewers," he added. "I think you need to practice preventative maintenance."

The March 13 candidate forum was hosted by the Villa Park Junior Women's Club.

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