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Orland Mayoral Candidate: Keith Pekau

Patch logo Patch 2/25/2021 Yasmeen Sheikah
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Learn more about current mayor Keith Pekau, seeking re-election this April. © People Over Politics Learn more about current mayor Keith Pekau, seeking re-election this April.

ORLAND PARK, IL — Keith Pekau is running for re-election for Mayor of Orland Park this April, against former mayor Dan McLaughlin. Pekau won the mayoral title against McLaughlin in April 2017, and is vying for votes to have the same outcome this year. The current mayor is running with the People Over Politics Party, against the One Orland Party, backed by McLaughlin.

Pekau recently filled out the Patch candidate survey, and his answers can be found below.

If you are a candidate for the April election, and would like to answer our Patch candidate questionnaire, please email yasmeen.sheikah@patch.com.

Keith Pekau

Age (as of Election Day)

54

Town/City of Residence

Orland Park

Office Sought

Orland Park Mayor

Party Affiliation (if a partisan race)

People Over Politics

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?

No.

Education

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Arizona State University and an M.B.A. from Duke University, as a Fuqua Scholar.

Occupation

Keith is a decorated combat veteran and former Air Force Instructor Weapons System Officer. He has over 1,500 hours of flight time, including 45 combat sorties and 150 combat hours over southern Iraq. After leaving the Air Force, Keith was a management consultant for two international consulting firms. In 2003, Keith started GroundsKeeper Landscape Care, a full-service landscaping and tree service company, which he sold in 2019. In 2009, Keith co-founded Fahrenheit Consulting which specializes in helping businesses develop market growth strategies.

Campaign website

www.KeithPekau.com

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office

Orland Park Mayor - Present

The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

Before I ran as an outsider to clean up our local government and get Orland Park moving in the right direction, career politicians had run our village for their own benefit. The village was careening towards a fiscal cliff with depleted reserves, an unbalanced budget, and out-of-control spending. Former Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his trustees had exploded our village’s debt from $12 million in 1998 to $111 million in 2016. Over 40% of our roads were in poor condition after years of underinvestment. And the village was only investing in a single park every two years.

Meanwhile, the career politicians and their allies were getting rich off our tax dollars.

McLaughlin and his trustees voted unanimously to hike his salary a whopping 275%, which would have increased his pension by $2.1 million with our hard-earned tax dollars.

We’re putting an end to the political games and obstruction in Orland Park. We eliminated the lavish pension benefits for elected officials, lowered the mayor’s salary back down to $40,000 a year making it a part-time position, reduced the pay for trustees, instituted term limits, eliminated patronage, and increased transparency.

Now there’s a new mindset and culture in our local government, one that’s focused on doing the right thing for our residents and small businesses.

As a result, we’ve been able to lead Orland Park through this pandemic with a balanced approach. Agreeing with the CDC that it is necessary to keep our economy moving to fund and protect our health care system, we’ve worked to protect lives and livelihoods. While the state has taken a more extreme approach, we’ve taken a data-driven, science-based approach that is pragmatic and realistic. We have found ways to allow people to continue to live their lives while taking smart and safe precautions.

Even as we continue to navigate the pandemic, we must look to the future. Orland Park is one of the best places to live, work, and play, and we’re working every day to keep it that way.

We are driving economic development so we can create good-paying jobs, grow revenue for the village in place of increased taxes and fees, and provide opportunities for our families looking for activities right here in our vibrant community. We are cutting spending, balancing our budget, paying down debt, and lowering taxes. We are keeping our families safe and our neighborhoods secure. And we are investing in improving our roads, infrastructure, and parks.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I am a political outsider who passed term limits, while my opponent is a career politician with 32 years in office. I lowered my salary, while my opponent raised his salary by 275%.

I eliminated pensions for elected officials, while my opponent enjoys a lavish taxpayer-funded pension that he tried to increase by $2.1 million when he was last in office. I brought on new transparency in the village, adding the release of audio and live-streaming of board meetings, that was never previously done. Additionally, we release far more of our executive session minutes than was done under the previous administration.

I brought over 500 new businesses to the village in 4 years, while my opponent lost our largest employer-Andrew Corporation, costing us nearly 1000 local jobs and forced out several long-time Orland Park businesses in the Orland Park triangle.

I cut the operating expenses of the village by 13.9%, paid down $37 million in debt, and lowered property taxes by 3%. My opponent increased the debt by $99 million from 1998 to 2016 and never reduced property taxes in 24 years, thereby increasing the village’s share of your property taxes from less than 5% to 7% during his tenure.

Upon the arrival of three new trustees, we increased the previous road resurfacing from just 9 road regions to 32 in an 18-month time frame, while my opponent let our roads get to the point of 40% being considered in very poor condition.

I increased our refurbishment of city parks, tennis and basketball courts, while my opponent only improved a single city park an average of one every 2 years. In 2020 alone, we did major refurbishments at 7 neighborhood parks, the John Humphrey Complex, repaved 18 basketball and tennis courts, and installed 7 pavilions.

On COVID-19, I led Orland Park through the pandemic with a balanced and data-driven approach that protects lives and livelihoods, while my opponent was for completely shutting down Orland Park for months.

Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?

I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The first amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Everyone has the right to peaceably assemble, and I support that right. However, violence can

never be tolerated, and I condemn rioting, looting, damage and destruction to property, unlawful

entry, and violence associated with any protests.

Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what

specifically should be done to do so?

The Village of Orland Park views all issues in terms of merit and fact. Race is not, and should not

be, a factor in any decisions that we make.

What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor

measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting

indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?

Even with these challenges, we’ve led Orland Park through this pandemic with a balanced approach. I agree with the CDC that it is necessary to keep our economy moving, while simultaneously protecting our health care system. The Village has worked diligently to protect lives and livelihoods. While the state has taken a more extreme approach, we’ve taken a data-driven, science-based approach that is pragmatic and realistic. We have found ways to allow people to continue to live their lives while taking smart and safe precautions.

We’ve helped our small businesses survive the pandemic and continue to pay their employees. When our frontline medical professionals and first responders were dangerously short of the PPE they needed to stay safe while keeping us safe, we secured and provided them over 4,000 facemasks. With the pandemic significantly reducing village revenues and increasing our costs, we reduced our budget to stay responsible during these difficult financial times and lowered our own pay to lead by example. Additionally, we provide a series of programs including small business sales tax sharing, development incentives, shopping and dining incentives to help our business community and residents. Moreover, while other municipalities are going to

taxpayers for more tax dollars to fill their pandemic-induced budget holes, we have responsibly cut costs, utilized reserves, and lowered property taxes by 3% to give struggling families and small businesses' relief.

Our approach is working. Sadly, 98% of the COVID deaths in our village are in long-term care facilities, which are solely regulated by the state. This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty by Springfield that has cost lives.

I support fact-based mitigation measures. However, Illinois and Cook County have been unwilling to share all of the data they collect and have moved the goalposts regularly. In fact, both of them have stopped reporting most of the data that was most useful. Based on the data, and Illinois’ performance relative to other states in the country, the mitigation measures that have been taken have not been effective.

I also do not believe in government enforcement of mask mandates. The governor’s enforcement position is that businesses should be fined up to $2,500 and business owners jailed for up to one year. The mask mandate that was proposed in Orland Park carried a $1,000 fine for business owners and for citizens who did not wear a mask in public. I believe that this is unnecessary and oppressive.

In my opinion, the best approach has always been information and education. That is why the Village of Orland Park adopted a robust opening plan with a plethora of information to help businesses and residents. This has been available since late April and has had a few modifications along the way. Businesses want their customers and employees to be safe and to feel comfortable using their services. In order to do so, they will implement the proper mitigation measure that fit their business. The government can’t possibly know the intricacies of how every business operates. From my observation, which the data supports, this approach has worked very well in Orland Park.

What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do

you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?

The Village of Orland Park has a vaccine distribution plan in place. We have performed exercises

to practice this plan if the Cook County Department of Public Health asks it to be activated.

Otherwise, we stand ready to assist in any way necessary to help distribute the vaccine.

As of when I am answering this, the state has only distributed 38% of its vaccine dose allocation.

This is unacceptable but not surprising. Since the beginning, IDPH has been behind the eight-ball.

They failed to provide PPE, so we sourced it and provided it to our business with the Mask for

Medical program. They failed to have an opening plan, so we developed one and sent it to them. I

was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, they would get the vaccine distribution right, but so far it has

not been done well either.

The Village of Orland Park stands ready to implement the plan we first developed in 2005 and will

continue to keep the public informed about the vaccination rollout as we learn more.

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer

dollars in the office you are seeking?

We are cutting spending, balancing our budget, paying down debt, and lowering taxes. When I took office, we were careening towards a fiscal cliff with a projected plan that depleted reserves, an unbalanced budget, and out-of-control spending. In the last four years, we’ve used technology to increase efficiency and cut operating expenses by 13.9%, including reducing staff by 9.5% while

improving services. We’ve paid down $37 million in debt and rebuilt our reserves. We’ve also

lowered property taxes by 3%.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform

The issues in the race are very clear. My opponent is a 32-year career politician who increased his

pay and put politics before the people. I am not a politician, I cut my pay, I enacted term limits and I put people over politics.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

We cut the mayor's pay, we cut the trustee pay, we cut our debt by $37 million in just four years,

while we lowered spending by 13.9%. We passed term limits with 89% of the vote. We created

good-paying jobs with smart economic development and grew the city’s revenue. We increased our road resurfacing from just 9 of our 249 road regions to 32 and we made major improvements to 7 neighborhood parks & the John Humphrey Complex, resurfaced 18 tennis and basketball courts, and installed 7 pavilions.

Why should voters trust you?

On the issues that I said I would accomplish in 2017, we came through and we are leading Orland

Park in the right direction. I promised to always put people over politics, and we’ve done that. I cut

my pay, eliminated pensions for elected officials, and made the mayor’s job about public service

and not self-service.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?

We must continue the forward momentum that we’ve created since my election in 2017.

We are driving economic development so we can create good-paying jobs, grow revenue for the village in place of increased taxes and fees, and provide opportunities for our families looking for activities right here in our vibrant community. We are especially focused on developing the I-80 corridor, enhancing our downtown, and protecting our mall. We’re diversifying our economy while keeping the retail, restaurant, and auto sectors strong. Major businesses, small businesses,

manufacturers, and restaurants are responding positively to our efforts and opening in our village.

We are also keeping our families safe and our neighborhoods secure. Thanks to the finest police department in all of Illinois, and under the leadership of Chiefs McCarthy and Mitchell, Orland Park is once again rated one of the safest towns in America. We’ve had the lowest or 2nd lowest violent crime rate in towns of our size in Illinois for four straight years. Crime has gone down each of the past four years. In fact, in 2019 we had the lowest number of crimes in the past 25 years, and in 2020 it was down another 31%. Even while surrounding communities were terrorized with rioting and looting, we proactively kept our residents and businesses safe.

Finally, we are investing in improving our roads, infrastructure, and parks. Before I took office, over 40% of our roads were in poor or very poor condition after years of underinvestment. Former Mayor McLaughlin’s administration was only investing in improving a single park every two years. In just four short years, we’ve laid the foundation for a sustainable infrastructure plan that responsibly maintains our roads and parks. Over the eighteen months, we increased our road resurfacing from just 9 of our 249 road regions to 32, and instead of only refurbishing one park we made major improvements to 7 neighborhood parks & John Humphrey Complex, resurfaced 8 tennis and 10 basketball courts, and installed 7 pavilions.

Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or

family?

No.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

My Dad always taught me to always do what was right, even if it was hard, and not to worry about

the personal consequences. Likewise, when I flew fighters and was deploying to a combat zone as

a young Air Force officer, I had a commander that said, “When in doubt, do the right thing. If you

aren’t sure what the right thing is, do what would make your Momma proud.” Similar pieces of

advice, but they have worked all my life when facing tough decisions and I suspect they will going

forward.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

I have been an open book since I took office to any that took the time to respectfully ask me questions. If voters want to know more, all they have to do is ask me what they want to know more about. They can do so via email at mayorkeithpekau@gmail.com, or via Facebook, Facebook messenger, or if the question is village related I can answer the question at kpekau@orlandpark.org

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