"Take the high road and be professional," was among the advice Lombard Trustee Greg Gron gave fellow members of the village board as they tried to select a successor to longtime Village President Bill Mueller, who died last month.
"The Mueller family deserves a smooth road to the end of President Mueller's term," Gron said last week. "I suggest we leave any arguing to the election where it belongs."
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Gron and Trustee Keith Giagnorio said they wanted to keep politics out of the appointment of an acting village president by removing from consideration anyone who is running for the seat in April, including Giagnorio and Trustee Zachary Wilson.
But at last week's meeting, the first trustee nominated to fill the interim role was Wilson. And politics -- in the form of two voting blocs unable to agree on an acting leader -- is exactly what kept them from leaving the meeting with a temporary village president.
"Because someone is running for something is why people are not being put in the seat," Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick said at the meeting.
Fitzpatrick got the debate going by suggesting the first of five unsuccessful ideas for temporary leadership. Joining her in supporting the motion to elect Wilson as acting village president were Wilson and Trustee Peter Breen. Opposing Fitzpatrick, Wilson and Breen were Gron, Bill Ware and Giagnorio.
Those two voting blocs remained intact for three other ideas, all of which deadlocked 3-3 and failed.
The nomination of Fitzpatrick as acting village president won the support of Fitzpatrick, Wilson and Breen, and the opposition of Gron, Ware and Giagnorio.
The groups switched sides on two other votes. Having Gron fill the village president seat until April was supported by Gron, Ware and Giagnorio but opposed by Fitzpatrick, Wilson and Breen. A vote on rotating the position monthly among all six trustees failed by the same vote with Gron, Ware and Giagnorio in favor of the rotation and Fitzpatrick, Wilson and Breen opposed.
Giagnorio suggested the rotation as a way to avoid giving any one trustee an advantage before the village president race in the spring.
"I think it would be more than fair to each and every one of us and would hopefully start healing the board, not dividing it," he said.
But Fitzpatrick said serving as village president is about more than running board meetings. It's about attending community events, communicating with state legislators and other local mayors and meeting with prospective developers to promote opportunities in Lombard, she said, and a rotating leader wouldn't accomplish all those tasks.
"We need somebody that will step in and lead as much as possible," she said.
A few other ideas surfaced, but to no avail.
Ware was nominated to serve as acting president, but only he and Giagnorio supported the motion.
Wilson twice suggested trustees rank themselves from one to six, creating a point scale in which the trustee receiving the fewest points would be named acting village president. Such a ranking never was completed.
Breen said trustees should return their pay until they fulfill their responsibility of choosing an acting president.
"I think every member of this board should forego payment from the people of Lombard until we decide this issue," Breen said. "Until we do our job, we take no pay."
The idea was not brought to a vote last week, but Breen has requested it be formally added to the agenda for the next village board meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at village hall, 255 E. Wilson Ave.
Trustees may meet before then in a special meeting to decide the leadership issue.
In a final vote that broke up the blocs of trustees, Ware, Gron, Giagnorio and Fitzpatrick agreed to table the issue until a later date, on the condition that a special meeting be called to elect an acting president as soon as a consensus develops.