A time to reflect on being mayor of Naperville

Hello, residents and friends of Naperville! This month starts my final year serving as mayor of the city of Naperville.

I can’t believe these past 19 years have gone by so quickly. I have so many happy memories of meeting members of our community at too many events to count, and each and every encounter has been a blessing. If I have had the privilege of interacting with you, I hope the meeting has been as wonderful for you as it has been for me.

While being mayor of Naperville is a title I will always cherish, I feel even more thankful to have been known as “Officer Friendly” throughout my career in Naperville. Being a police officer afforded me the chance to work with the children of our community, and I have tried to continue that role as mayor. It is so rewarding to have the young people of our city recognize the position of mayor and have respect for what that position does for the community, no matter who holds the title at any given time.

Recently, I was sitting in a restaurant when a little girl asked if she could have her picture taken with me. I felt so honored and gladly obliged. I also gave her one of my business cards with a little note that said, “Mayor Pradel is my friend.”

She told me she recognized me even though I was not in any formal attire or at any formal event. It is heartwarming to realize that one person can have an effect on a child’s life. I told her parents that she is the future of our city and country, and I feel we are in good shape in that regard.

My sole desire has been to make Naperville’s quality of life second to none for our children. If I’ve helped just one child grow and prosper, I have achieved my goal.

Last month, the City Council and I had a chance to go to Springfield with the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference and visit with our legislators. We were able to promote our legislative priorities and talk about some of the major projects and initiatives happening in Naperville. Our legislators have many tasks on their plates and need a lot of encouragement from all of us. If you’ve never talked to a representative or senator, why don’t you take the time to make at least one phone call or write one letter or email thanking them for their public service and expressing your views? After all, serving you is the most important part of their jobs.

So much activity takes place each day in Springfield, and it was so interesting to sit in on the sessions and hear the dialogue between our senators and representatives. As I’ve said before, we need to agree to disagree without being disagreeable. We live in a great country and a great state and need to all work together to make Illinois the best state it can be.

Teamwork has been one of the cornerstones of my time in public office. As I’ve said many a time, by working together as a team we can build a great community and overcome the challenges life throws our way, be them economic or social.

As I begin to reflect on my time as mayor, I feel like I have to take a little extra time to thank those members of my team that have been so instrumental in making Naperville the best it can be. I’ve seen many Council members come and go, and the teamwork experienced in recent years has been nothing short of wonderful. And so, for the next seven months, I will be using a little space in my column to thank the current Council members one at a time in alphabetical order for their commitment to work together as a team.

I want to thank Councilwoman Judy Brodhead for all of her efforts. Judy Brodhead joined the Council in 2009 after many years on the Plan Commission and later the Zoning Board of Appeals. She’s an English professor and coordinator of Cultural Events at North Central College, where she began teaching in 1990. She and her husband Gary Smith met at the 1969 Rutgers-Navy game. Like me, Gary is a proud Marine. They raised three children in Naperville: Matthew, Sarah, and Garrett.

I have truly been blessed with the best City Council in the nation, and I’ve also been blessed with the best family in the world. My wife and family are so appreciative of each and every one of you that has kept us in your thoughts and prayers.

Thank you for being such a city of loving, caring people.