When Michael Airdo moved to Bartlett in 1999, he never dreamed of being a village trustee, much less acting village president -- the position he was appointed to earlier this week by his fellow board members.
But when talk of constructing a power plant near his home began soon after Airdo and his wife Lori became new residents, he felt an urge to speak up to village officials, and eventually, run for public office.
"I decided I needed to get involved," Airdo said. "You need to protect what's dear to you."
Airdo, who grew up in Westchester, was first elected as a trustee in 2001, when there were 11 candidates for three vacant seats. He was re-elected in 2005 and 2009 and will serve as acting village president until May 7, 2013.
The village board chose Airdo from among themselves Tuesday to be Bartlett's new leader after former village President Michael Kelly resigned abruptly last month.
"I'm honored to be in the position," Airdo said, adding that he was appreciative the board has faith in him to do the job.
As trustee, Airdo served as chairman of the finance and golf committees. Outside of politics, Airdo is a lawyer at Kopon Airdo, LLC, located in Chicago's Willis Tower, where he focuses on complex civil cases, including commercial disputes and matters involving not-for-profit corporations.
Former state Senator Steve Rauschenberger said Airdo, who he has consulted with on state budget and municipal finance issues, is a "sharp guy" who really cares about the Bartlett area. "I think maybe he can be that person that helps pull Bartlett back together," he said.
Rita Lopienski, president of Arts in Bartlett, said Airdo has donated his legal services to the organization for 10 years.
"He's always been one of our biggest advocates," she said, adding that the other trustees are very supportive too.
As for Airdo's new title, Lopienski said she thinks the village is lucky to just have someone in the role again after Kelly's abrupt departure and that she is supportive of whoever the mayor is.
Airdo acknowledged that others don't feel the same.
"I know that (Kelly) was much beloved," he said, adding that he was stunned by the former village president's resignation. "I personally like Mike Kelly a lot. He needs to be applauded."
Kelly supporters are angry that some trustees, including Airdo, criticized Kelly for late payment of property taxes. Kelly cited the desire to avoid a "distracting and expensive political battle with those members of the board who oppose my term in office" as his reason for resigning after the board voted to hire an outside attorney to look into the issue. "I think time will heal," Airdo said of the political wounds. "Bartlett is what it is not because of one person."
Airdo said he plans to continue opportunities for open dialogue with residents, such as coffee with the board. He also said because "the commissions are critical," one of the practical moves he will make in the coming weeks will be filling vacancies on various commissions with interested residents.
Airdo said the biggest challenge the village faces right now is decreasing the burden on taxpayers. He said that while the budget has been balanced in recent years, more action needs to be taken in "raising revenue and decreasing expenses."
He said he still needs to talk with the board and the village staff and attorney to solidify plans for the future, but added that he is very excited about a new business he can't name yet that may move into the village's Brewster Creek Business Park. He also said he will continue to focus on further developing the Route 59 TIF district and fixing Beaver Pond flooding issues.