The Century Walk Corporation

When 'Officer Friendly' becomes a fixture of Naperville's history

May 20, 2007 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL)

It is hard to believe that when the "Officer Friendly" sculpture is dedicated May 29 there then will be 30 pieces of public art in the Century Walk program.

No, it doesn't seem like "only yesterday" that Century Walk started, but it might be the day before yesterday or the day before the day before yesterday.

I think of the Century Walk art as an educational and entertaining attraction for people to wander around and look at as they wait for a table on Saturday evenings in one of downtown's crowded restaurants.

At any of the stops, they get to see not only a neat piece of art but learn a mini-history lesson about Naperville.

Most of the art is in the downtown, though "Officer Friendly" will sit at Washington and School streets.

The new sculpture depicts George Pradel, before he was mayor and when he was officer friendly on the Naperville Police Department, with two kids - a little boy on foot and a little girl on a tricycle.

It's sort of a lesson for all you aspiring office holders out there.

Be nice to the kids, because eventually they will grow up, remember that you were officer friendly and vote for you.

I remember the first time George ran for mayor.

I was walking down Jefferson Avenue one day, and there was a young mom with a couple of kids looking through the window of a store from the sidewalk.

Inside the store was George, probably on the campaign trail, talking to folks inside.

The young mother, obviously a longtime Napervillian, pointed George out to her kids, telling them that he was officer friendly. She said it in a way that made it seem like a reference to seeing him in that role when she was a child and he came to her class.

It was about that time that I began to think the question was not so much whether George was going to win his first mayoral election, but rather by how much.

In the last election, when the once officer friendly won his fourth term, his opponent, Councilman Doug Krause, kept complaining, albeit with a smile, that it was like running against Santa Claus.

For many years, George also has been Santa Claus.

The difference between being Santa and being the guy who runs against Santa is several thousand votes - or just less than 70 percent to just more than 30 percent.

Lord knows how many votes a mayor who is not only officer friendly and Santa but also a sculpture outside a junior high school can get.

Century Walk is one of those things that, when it was just a glimmer in Brand Bobosky's imagination and he first started talking about it, I have to admit I was more than a tad skeptical about its chances to make it in the competitive world of separating people from their money for civic betterment.

But I would be the first to admit it has been a spectacular success. Although I do find it a little unnerving to see a sculpture of someone I sat across from in the newsroom at 9 W. Jackson Ave. now as part of a display celebrating Naperville's past.

Fortunately, it's a good past and one well worth celebrating. To that end, Century Walk has done itself and Naperville proud.

Tim West's column is published on Sundays and Wednesdays. Contact him at 630-416-5290 or west@scn1.com.


Section: AROUND TOWN — Page: 2