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posted: 8/22/2012 6:40 PM

Wilks won't seek third term as Mount Prospect village president

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  • Irvana Wilks

      Irvana Wilks

 

Three was the charm for Mount Prospect Village President Irvana Wilks when, on her third try, she won election to the village's top elected office in 2005.

But there will be no third term in office for Wilks, who announced Wednesday she will not seek re-election next year.

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The decision likely puts an end to Wilks' more than two decades in public service, first as a member of a village commission on downtown development, followed by 14 years as a village trustee and eight years in the president's seat.

"The timing seemed perfect for new leadership on the village board," said Wilks, a Mount Prospect resident since 1969. "If you add up all the years, I have been on the board since 1991."

Wilks, whose tenure in politics was preceded by a career in journalism in Kansas, said one of the things she will concentrate on after completing her second term is finishing a novel.

Elected president after a three-way contest to replace predecessor Gerald "Skip" Farley, Wilks' administration dealt over the years with numerous storms, both literally and figuratively.

She had to declare states of emergency four times after catastrophic weather hit the village, including a record-breaking blizzard and minor tornado in 2011.

"I'm the mayor of bad weather," she once told Farley.

There also were economic storms to be weathered, with the village forced in 2010 to deal with an impending budget crisis by laying off 10 percent of its workers.

Both storms were handled with aplomb, said Village Manager Michael Janonis.

"She had a steady hand on the rudder of the ship and got through the hard times," he said. "What could have been worse wasn't and we also had some great successes."

Those successes, Janonis said, included the redevelopment of the Randhurst Mall as Randhurst Village and the opening of the Community Connections center.

"I'm excited about Randhurst coming on," Wilks said. "It's such a blessing. It could have just been a skeleton of a mall, because it was built at a certain time, and not every mall can be converted. It really did take someone who was willing to keep faith with Mount Prospect."

While Randhurst is making a comeback, the village has had to lower its sights a bit for the downtown.

"I think all of us had a vision, but then the economy tanked in '08 and '09," she said. "And when that happened, everyone reset their vision."

Wilks points out, however, that the Blues Bar is still in business and the downtown Tax Increment Financing district has made money.

"It's certainly not in default, like a lot of TIFs are," she said.

When asked what makes her most proud, Wilks first named the Levee 37 flood control project along the Des Plaines River. She credits Farley for putting in place much of what eventually came to fruition under her administration, including Levee 37, the redevelopment of the downtown and the redevelopment of Randhurst.

"I have always invited him to the groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings," she said, to acknowledge his contribution.

"There isn't anyone that loves the village more than she does," Farley said Wednesday. "She was always very gracious and very kind to any citizen that had a problem. She was interested in trying to solve their concerns and their problems."

During her days as a trustee, he said, "You could always count on her having done her homework. Whether you agreed with her position or not, she was at least very definitely informed. And you knew that the position that she took was the one that she felt was the right one "

A recent example was her position against video gaming. Faced with pleas from local restaurant and bar owners to allow gambling machines in their businesses, Wilks defended her position displaying a meticulous understanding of the legislation involved and what she sees as its shortcomings.

Her former campaign manager, Trustee A. John Korn, said Wilks' dedication to Mount Prospect is displayed by her high profile around town.

"There have been so many ceremonies and ribbon cuttings and so forth," Korn said. "I don't think most of the citizens realize that this part-time job is such a full-time job, where you are constantly on call."

Wilks left no hint as to who might surface as her successor, but is confident the village will be in good hands.

"Mount Prospect has a deep bench when it comes to the quality and commitment of leaders in the village," she said. "We have a strong board of trustees. In addition there are dedicated members of both elected and appointed boards and commissions."

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