By Dermot Connolly
To a standing ovation, Sunday, Aug. 2, was declared “Chief Timothy J. McCarthy Day” in Orland Park, in honor of the man who is retiring after serving the village as police chief for 26 years.
With his wife, Carol, children and grandchildren looking on, the Village Board passed the proclamation on Monday honoring McCarthy, who officially ends his 48-year career in law enforcement on Aug. 1.
A native of Chicago’s Ashburn neighborhood, he came to national prominence as a Secret Service agent when he was shot in the chest while protecting President Ronald Reagan from would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. on March 30, 1981. He spent 22 years as a U.S. special agent before returning to Illinois and taking on the job in Orland Park, where he has lived since then.
The board wasn’t in full agreement later in the meeting, however, voting 4-3 to move on to Phase 3 of the village’s “Back to Normal” reopening plan. This is the final stage, so it essentially means allowing businesses and other activities to return to normal operations with the recommendation to wear masks when social distancing is impossible. By the same margin, the decision was made to go ahead with the annual Taste of Orland food and music festival from July 31 to Aug. 2—with limits on attendance and other safety measures—as well as a two-concert series planned for August and September.
Ray Piattoni, director of Parks and Recreation for the village, explained the Taste of Orland, which is held on the grounds of the Village Hall complex, will be laid out differently this year to allow for social distancing. Attendance will be limited to just over 2,000 people at one time, when in the past as many as 10,000 people could be there at any time.
Piattoni said 225 seating pods to accommodate up to six people will be set up, and seating on the lawn in front of the bandstand will be spread out as well.
“We will also have a lot more sanitizing stations to allow people to wash their hands,” he said.
Mayor Keith Pekau called McCarthy “an absolute professional since Day 1.” and thanked him for his many years of service to the nation and the village, as well as the “wise counsel” provided to the mayor since he took office three years ago.
Trustee Kathy Fenton had been on the board for 27 years and was among those who decided to hire McCarthy.
“I am very proud of that decision. I think it is one of the best we ever made,” she said.
McCarthy accepted the accolades but shared the credit for his success with his family, local residents and his entire staff.
“The chief of police is a small cog in a big wheel,” said McCarthy, crediting his command staff, patrol officers and civilian employees for making his job easier.
“It is no surprise that this department is one of the best in the state of Illinois, because we have the support of the village leaders. As I close out 48 years, I feel very good about where I found the Orland Park Police Department and where it is now,” said McCarthy, thanking the board for giving the police department what it needed and “letting us do our job.”
“It is a rare day that I ever hear from a trustee or even the mayor asking for anything,” he said. “Every crime in Orland Park is taken personally, and you sleep with one eye open in order to be ready for anything.”
Before the votes on the reopening and events, Pekau reviewed state and local statistics on COVID-19 cases in detail showing that COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization rates have remained low enough over the past two weeks.
“Based on all that, my advice is to move on to the next phase,” said Pekau. “These are the CDC recommendations, to move from phase to phase after two weeks.”
While it will technically allow restaurants to return to regular indoor seating, he said he doesn’t see them rushing to do that just yet because many customers aren’t ready to. He urged wearing masks indoors, especially when social distancing cannot be observed.
Trustees Fenton, Dan Calandriello and Jim Dodge voted “no” on all the measures, all expressing concern that the village was moving ahead too fast with the reopening, considering what is happening in other states that are seeing a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus.
Calandriello “respectfully disagreed” with Pekau’s view that Gov. Pritzer’s mandates on COVID-19 are no longer in force because of a court ruling downstate.
“I think we are swimming very hard against people’s perceptions about this. We are trying too hard to make an event that is not going to be successful. I am kind of concerned,” said Dodge regarding the concert series in particular.
Plans now call for large screens to be set up outside the Centennial Park venue so the concerts can be viewed by people sitting in cars.