The two mayoral candidates in Lake Villa present voters with a contrast in political experience and perception of how the village is faring in attracting business.
Incumbent Frank Loffredo, who has served since 1993 and is seeking a sixth term, says the village is positioned for when the economy improves.
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But Mona Mustafa, a sales and marketing professional making her first run for public office, says the village is behind in the quest for new businesses.
Candidates discussed downtown development and other issues during an interview and in a Daily Herald questionnaire.
Loffredo, a retired college professor who moved to Lake Villa in 1970, says the village has not been stagnant and is deep in the planning process for the triangle-shaped downtown area bordered by Grand and Cedar avenues and Route 83.
One possibility is a children's museum at a former Chrysler dealership as an anchor attraction, he said. Loffredo listed increasing economic development as his top campaign issue.
"We're looking at this process as a re-branding of the town," he said of an ongoing downtown planning process by Teska Associates, which also focuses on the role of the village's Metra station.
"We've committed money in a difficult time but we see the importance of it," he said. "We're headed in the right direction." Mustafa moved to Lake Villa about 10 years ago. She noted her success as an independent contractor in helping to create and launch licensed products, such as the Pinewood Derby Kit, as an example of her marketing expertise.
"We have to attract new business," she said. "I don't think we're even competing to bring in retail." Downtown Lake Villa looks "almost the same as it did 40 years ago," she contends.
Bringing value to Lake Villa is Mustafa's top issue and attracting business to improve the downtown area is one way to do that. Mustafa said she didn't think current officials were capable of sealing deals.
"Frank Loffredo is a big fish in a small pond and the pond is drying up economically," she said. "I'm a minnow in a big pond and I compete."
Loffredo said many village issues have stemmed from the economy and that even in tough times, business registrations are increasing and industrial parks are nearly full.
"We've been able to keep the village fiscally sound. We haven't had to cut any programs," he said. "When we come out of this economy, we're going to be ready. We have something to offer."
Mustafa said that by not having been part of government, she will be able to look at the workings of the village with a "fresh set of eyes."
"I think Lake Villa needs a good sales person, an advocate, a person willing to go outside the village to bring in commercial retailers," she said.
"This is not a bad plan," she said of the Teska work, "but there's no specifics, there's no detail." She said the plan lacked benchmarks, milestones or timelines to produce measurable results over the next four years.
As a gateway to the Chain `O Lakes, the village should have a hotel, grocery store and other amenities, according to Mustafa.
"Nobody's made an effort to communicate what the plan is," she contended.
Loffredo said those avenues have already been pursued by the village.
"These aren't new ideas," Loffredo said.
He also said that mailers, robo calls, and workshops have been used to inform the public about the plan.
"We are an all-inclusive community now," he said.