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updated: 1/30/2013 3:51 PM

Trustee, ex-police chief running for Villa Park mayor

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Both candidates for Villa Park village president were involved in an agreement last year that ended the tenure of former police Chief John Heidelmeier.

But as their campaigns heat up, the candidates say they can't discuss the chief's departure.

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One of the candidates is Heidelmeier himself, who is running against Trustee Deborah Bullwinkel in the April 9 election.

The candidates spelled out their plans for leading Villa Park into the future, including ideas about how to improve policing and decrease crime, during an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald. But both said they could not discuss the January 2012 agreement that ended Heidelmeier's employment.

"We can't comment on that. We've agreed to not comment on that," Heidelmeier said.

Heidelmeier, 50, retired a year ago after working 23 years with the Villa Park Police Department, where he rose from patrol officer to serve as chief for almost two years. He says he is a proven leader with a talent for building relationships and rallying groups around a shared vision.

"I really believe it's about building relationships with people," Heidelmeier said about the role of village president. "I like to instill an inspired vision. I like to get people together -- that's why you pool your ideas -- because then it's no longer just my idea, it's our idea. And you take that idea and you move it forward together."

Bullwinkel, a 44-year-old self-employed communications consultant, paints herself as an "inclusive leader" and "big-picture thinker" who wants to create a detailed plan for progress and keep the community informed.

"At every meeting, I ask for an update, or I give an update, or I provide information on what's going on with the village," Bullwinkel said. "I'm known as the 'update trustee.' I will continue to do that as president."

Bullwinkel said police should show their faces around the community more often, reworking operations to involve more patrols around the train station on foot, bike, and even on Segways if grant funding can be found.

"I would encourage the police to be out there more often -- not as reactive, but more proactive in their approach," Bullwinkel said. "I think we can do a little bit better. I think visibility is the key."

Heidelmeier said visible, proactive policing already was practiced during his time as chief. He said patrol officers were saturating some areas so often business owners knew them by first name. A zero-tolerance policy he implemented for crimes around the train station gave officers the power and responsibility to "focus on arresting the bad guy," he said.

"We were moving in the right direction in this area," he said. "This is an area that has to be fixed now that really shouldn't be."

Bullwinkel said she would work with Villa Park's current top cop, former Darien Chief Robert Pavelchik, to find ways to increase to increase police visibility and patrols without paying too much overtime.

Heidelmeier and Bullwinkel are competing in the April 9 election for a 4-year term as village president.

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