America’s best small town mayor, Chester Stranczek, mayor of Crestwood, Illinois, is calling it quits after 50 years of public service. He will truly be missed. If you want to define success, you can define in two words, Chester Stranczek.
Longtime Crestwood mayor steps down
August 1, 2007 By Kristen Schorsch – Daily Southtown Staff writer
After 38 years as mayor and 50 years in public office, Crestwood Mayor Chester Stranczek said he plans to give up his post this fall.
Crestwood Mayor Chester Stranczek will be stepping down from his post this fall due to health issues even though he has two years left on his term. Who’s next in Crestwood?
The Republican leader’s legacy includes rebating a portion of his residents’ property taxes, outsourcing most village jobs and building a town where the number of businesses has gone from about 50 to nearly 600 during his tenure. In fact, Stranczek said, the village has little land left to develop.
The former minor league baseball player also has taken heat over the years for messages on a sign he owns outside village hall along Cicero Avenue.
In an unintentionally ironic gaffe, the sign once famously read “English is our language — no excetions — learn it.”
“I just think it’s time for a young person to take over with new ideas,” Stranczek, 77, said Tuesday about his plans to step down. “I get tired in the afternoon, and I don’t have the energy anymore like I used to.”
Elected mayor in 1969, he served as trustee for 12 years before that. Stranczek said he doesn’t think it’s right to say who will be appointed to replace him but knows. Two years remain on his four-year term.
Rumors have circulated that Stranczek’s son, Robert, a village trustee, will get the board’s nod.
Robert Stranczek, who is president of his family’s trucking business, Harvey-based Cresco Lines, could not be reached for comment.
Stranczek is a noteworthy figure in a long line of southwest suburban mayors who’ve stayed in office for decades. For Stranczek, that longevity could be attributed to the success of the mom-and-pop shops alongside big-box stores in Crestwood.
Crestwood’s thriving business district also has brought prosperity for surrounding towns, said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors.
“It’s very difficult to walk away,” said Bennett, who has been in office for 27 years. “Like a lot of mayors, you love the community you serve.”
Bridgeview, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn and Alsip have or have had mayors who served for 20 years or more, Bennett said.
Midlothian Mayor Tom Murawski, who has led his village for more than 20 years, credits Stranczek with leading the campaign for the south suburbs to get a riverboat casino.
Stranczek was born and raised in Crestwood but didn’t speak a word of English until he was 8 years old, he said. It was an accomplishment for the eldest of eight children, who later helped his siblings learn the language.
His Polish immigrant parents ran a vegetable farm in Crestwood and sold corn, tomatoes and cucumbers, among other foods. That’s how they always had something to eat, even through the Depression, Stranczek said.
Last winter, he gave residents who own their homes 48 percent of their property taxes back, a total of $4 million. He also returns his $6,000 mayor’s salary to the village every year.
“I’ll probably dedicate the rest of my life, as long as I’m alive, to helping the village in any way I can,” Stranczek said.