Mayor Steve Chirico—A Glimpse Into His First 100 Days

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NMAG0915_Community_nm mayor steve chirico 1_800pxIt has only been a few months, but Steve Chirico is already at home in his new role as Naperville’s 41st mayor. Before becoming mayor, Chirico served as city councilman for four years and ran his own company for more than 30 years. He is now drawing on his business experience to ensure the city has a prosperous future.

“Since I’ve been in office I’ve spent my time and energy focusing on economic development,” Chirico says. “I want to protect the amenities residents have come to enjoy and expect—things like great schools, safe neighborhoods and wonderful parks. The way to protect that is with a robust local economy.”

One of his main focuses is to fill the city’s vacant buildings with new businesses. “Revitalizing these areas will greatly benefit our economy with minimal impact on residential districts.”

Balancing the budget is also high on Chirico’s list. “The budget is a huge challenge. For the last 15 years, the city has spent more than it’s taken in, depleting its cash reserves and incurring debt. We need to find a long-term sustainable solution that takes the pressure off property taxpayers.” Chirico believes part of that solution lies in diversifying the city’s industries. “When the recession hit, our local economy suffered because we were heavily reliant on one industry. Ensuring we have a balanced business economy will better protect us in the future.”

Chirico also plans to expand the city’s financial advisory boards. “I want to rely more on the boards and commissions to get the citizens’ point of view. We have a vast resource of successful business professionals living in our community that hasn’t been utilized.”

While he has spent a lot of time focusing on the city’s economy, he has been able to enjoy some mayoral perks. In addition to being a judge at Ribfest, he also attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his alma matter, Elmwood Elementary School. “Forty-three years after I graduated, I had the privilege of being a part of the groundbreaking for the school’s new garden.”

Although the mayoral job is technically part-time, Chirico finds it to be a full-time responsibility. “Everything about the job is full-time except the compensation,” he jokes. “I could never do this job part-time”.

In his free time, Chirico values being with his family. He and his wife, Julie, have a blended family with five girls, two boys and two grandsons. “What makes the job work is that it fits into my life. My wife is very supportive. She works in politics so she understands the sacrifices.” He also handed his business over to his two oldest daughters. “A lot of pieces needed to come together. My family has been a great support system.”

Chirico grew up in Naperville and graduated from Naperville Central High School in 1978. While studying political science at Northern Illinois University, he founded Great Western Flooring, which he successfully ran for over three decades. He began his political career four years ago when he was elected to the city council. “I saw that the state was going in the wrong direction and I wanted to get involved on the local level.” When Mayor Pradel announced his retirement, Chirico saw it as an opportunity to make a bigger impact on the city he loves.

“Naperville is at a defining moment. There needs to be some tough conversations. My role is to help the city council work together and move forward as a team,” Chirico says. “Ten years from now, I’d like the mayor and city council to look back and be able to thank us for creating a financially responsible and stable local government.”

Photo by Robyn Sheldon