For the first time in 20 years, Arlene Mulder's name won't be on the ballot for village president of Arlington Heights.
With the longtime mayor retiring at the end of her term in spring 2013, trustees and local officials are starting to think about what a future without Mulder on the local political scene will look like.
Without term limits in Arlington Heights, Mulder has been able to serve five consecutive terms, and a new leader may have a difficult time following in her footsteps.
"People get used to a particular style and direction, so it's difficult for someone else to come in and fill those shoes," said Cook County circuit court Presiding Judge William Maki, who preceded Mulder as village president in Arlington Heights. "I think you have to be your own person and recognize that there is a transition stage, there is an adjustment period," he said.
Nominating petitions can be circulated as early as Tuesday for the April 9, 2013, election, but according to the village clerk, none for village president had been picked up as of Wednesday afternoon.
"I have absolutely no idea who might throw their hat in the ring, but the residents of this community are so engaged, they'll end up picking the right person," Mulder said Wednesday.
Mulder wouldn't say if she will support a specific candidate, especially since none have officially announced.
"Right now I'm going to put everything into the next seven months. I have no intention of slowing down at all," she said. "My focus is going to be continuing to serve as mayor.
"I don't know what the future will be or who the candidates will be. Right now I've got a job to do and I want to do it to the best of my ability."
Longtime Wheeling Township Republican Committeewoman Ruth O'Connell speculated that trustees Thomas Hayes, Joseph Farwell, Thomas Glasgow or Mike Sidor could be candidates for mayor, but she hopes only one Republican decides to run. Hayes, Farwell and Glasgow are all members of her organization.
Since municipal offices are nonpartisan, O'Connell said the township GOP would not endorse a particular candidate, but it very well might help pass petitions and support a candidate financially.
Farwell said Wednesday he hasn't decided whether he will run for mayor. He cautioned against reading too much into the fact he hasn't yet picked up his nominating packet to run for re-election as a trustee.
Thomas Hayes, who was first elected to the village board in 1991, the same year as Mulder, is thinking of throwing his hat in the ring.
"I'm very seriously considering running," Hayes said. "I'm very intrigued about the opportunity to represent the village in a different capacity."
Hayes is in the middle of his current trustee term, so if he ran for mayor and lost, he would still have a seat on the village board.
Hayes said he expects to make an announcement by the end of the week.
"I would make it my priority to maintain the high quality of life that we've been able to establish over the past few decades through Arlene's leadership," Hayes said. "It's important to have someone who can bring experience and dedication to the position."
Sidor and Glasgow could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Whether the next mayor of Arlington Heights is a trustee or not a current public servant, experts said it will be a bit of a balancing act between the way things have been done for decades and starting with a clean slate.
Paul Green, director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University in Schaumburg, said the next mayor will need to "be respectful of the Mulder legacy and accomplishments, but also deal with the present and future policy issues and problems as the new leader."
He added that Mulder "has been a major player in the public policy field beyond Arlington Heights' borders," and it will just depend on who is elected for how the political factions shake out.
No matter who is elected, state Rep. David Harris said he is confident Arlington Heights will continue to be one of the most prominent Northwest suburbs and expand on its successes.
Harris said he has known Mulder since the 1980s when she ran his first campaign for the state legislature while she was on the park board.
"Assuming that (he or she) develops a good working relationship with the board, a new mayor will be able to establish his or her own mark on the village fairly quickly," Harris said.
"A new mayor will come in with fresh ideas, a fresh approach and new concepts of how they want to take the village into the future."