Donald Stephens; Ill. Mayor for 51 Years

Donald Stephens shakes hands after completing a speech to the City Club of Chicago in September 2005. Mr. Stephens was Rosemont's first and only mayor.
Donald Stephens shakes hands after completing a speech to the City Club of Chicago in September 2005. Mr. Stephens was Rosemont's first and only mayor. (By M. Spencer Green -- Associated Press)
Associated Press
Saturday, April 21, 2007

Donald Stephens, who saw the Chicago suburb of Rosemont develop into a commercial haven during his half-century as its only mayor, has died, a city spokesman said. He was 79.

Mr. Stephens had stomach cancer and died at his home April 18, spokesman Gary Mack said.

During his 51-year tenure, Mr. Stephens focused on large-scale projects -- an entertainment center, a theater and a convention center that bears his name. His final years in office were marred by a casino bid that collapsed amid allegations of mob ties.

Mr. Stephens won his latest four-year term in 2005. It was not clear how his successor would be chosen, Mack said. Mr. Stephens's son Bradley, a village trustee, had served as mayor pro tem when his father was unable to attend city meetings, Mack said.

The suburb near O'Hare International Airport had 85 residents when Mr. Stephens was first elected mayor in 1956, the same year Rosemont was incorporated. Today, it has about 4,200 people and an annual economic impact estimated at $248 million.

"He took Rosemont from a tiny mud swamp to an incredible mecca of tourism in the hospitality industry," Mack said.

An effort to attract the Emerald Casino, consuming many years and millions of dollars, ended in December 2005 when the Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously to revoke the casino's gambling license. The board said top company officials lied to regulators and took investments from people allegedly tied to organized crime.

In a summer 2005 hearing on the proposed casino's license, an FBI agent testified that Mr. Stephens had met with organized crime figures about mob control of construction and operations contracts at the planned gambling hall. Mr. Stephens repeatedly denied allegations of mob connections.

Mr. Stephens was born in Chicago on March 13, 1928.

Along with his son, survivors include his wife, Katherine; a daughter, Gail; and two other sons, Donald and Mark.


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