Changing of the guard in South Barrington mayor's office
South Barrington Village President Frank Munao expects to continue his more than 40 years of public service to the village in 2013, but in a more focused role after May.
Two-term Trustee Paula McCombie is the only candidate to file to run for village president in the April election and so is likely to succeed Munao, though there is still time for a write-in candidate to emerge.
Munao -- both the third and seventh village president in South Barrington history -- decided not to seek re-election in order to dedicate himself to the role of emergency management coordinator, which he took on in the wake of 9/11.
"My being both a mayor and so deeply involved in emergency management is very rare," Munao said.
Indeed, when Munao suggested South Barrington's withdrawal from the Barrington Area Council of Governments a year ago, the other member presidents spoke most about the potential loss of his emergency management expertise. South Barrington agreed to stay after dues were reduced.
That's also about the time Munao began weighing another four-year commitment to the job of village president -- one he's held for the past 12 years.
During the summer, he approached trustees Joseph Abbate and McCombie to see if either were willing to step up and succeed him. After discussion, McCombie filed for the office in December.
"I always respected Frank and thought he was a very good mayor," McCombie said.
Munao believes it was around 1971 that his public service to the village began. He became building and zoning officer, treasurer and a member of the plan commission.
He was chairman of the plan commission in 1977 when he was asked to become the next village president. He served one term.
Munao was succeeded by Warren Fuller, and he eventually found himself back in his former role as plan commission chairman.
The controversial approval of The Woods of South Barrington residential development under former Village President Michael Neben -- the first subdivision in the village to dispense with minimum one-acre lots -- brought Munao back into elective politics in 2001.
After becoming president again, Munao's administration nullified The Woods' approval on the basis that one trustee's deciding vote represented a potential conflict of interest. That led to a breach-of-contract lawsuit from the developer, which was fought until Munao and others decided that legal fees were getting too high.
But Munao said the eventual settlement paved the way for a project that is no longer controversial -- and best of all created The Arboretum shopping center, which has become a welcome source of sales tax revenue.
"That has been a shining jewel in our village," Munao said.
McCombie agreed, saying South Barrington has more readily accommodated the changes wrought by The Woods and The Arboretum than some residents thought possible.
One reason may be that the sluggish housing market has kept year-by-year growth in The Woods slow and steady, McCombie said. Also, no other housing developers have been able to take advantage of the sanitary sewer built strictly for The Woods and nearby commercial development.
Munao is most proud of starting conservancy and emergency management initiatives as village president, as well as staying true to the basic job of maintaining sound finances for the village.
One of his biggest frustrations is the delay in expanding village hall, caused by an increasing number of agencies' jurisdiction over the project. The village administration and police department are in such need of the expansion that it can't be called off, Munao said. He still hopes final approvals will get done on his watch -- most likely in March.
After that, he will be able to devote himself to emergency management classes and serving as a liaison to the three fire protection districts that serve the village.
McCombie said her experience as a plan commissioner and trustee has given her insight into almost all aspects of village business, and she expects to be able to take over the day-to-day oversight Munao has long maintained at village hall.
"It's probably going to be a bigger time commitment," McCombie said.
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