For the past 20 years, Arlene Mulder has barely missed a ribbon cutting, ground breaking or dedication in Arlington Heights. As village president her official capacity is part-time, but she works 60-hour weeks from her office in village hall and around town.
That will soon change.
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No matter which of the three men is elected to be the next village president in Arlington Heights on Tuesday, the constant presence of the mayor on a daily basis is just one more thing that will be different.
Ron Drake, Tom Hayes and Mark Hellner all work full-time jobs in Chicago. Mulder is a former teacher and coach but stayed home to raise her family and didn't go back to the classroom once she was elected trustee in 1991.
"I look at the residents as my boss, and I tried to show respect for them; whenever they had an event and asked me to come to it, I did," Mulder said Thursday. "I wanted to convey that there's an open door for their opinions to be expressed. I was the conduit between the people and the staff."
With all three men working downtown, it may be hard for them to cut a ribbon at a new business on a weekday afternoon or stop by an elementary school play in the morning before meeting with managers of Arlington Park for lunch -- all things Mulder does now.
"The community has been very fortunate to have someone like (Mulder) who has been able to devote her full time to being mayor, but the position is not designed that way," said Hayes, an attorney.
The Arlington Heights village president receives an $8,500 annual stipend, something Mulder has rejected for the past several years so as not to double dip with her income from the Metra board. Hellner, Drake and Hayes have all said they will take the stipend.
All three candidates said they will ask other members of the village board, some of whom work in Arlington Heights, to share in the public appearances.
"I think it's important that it's not just one person representing the village but all nine of us," said Drake, who works at an advertising firm. "I'll call on other board members to participate in some of the ceremonial events if I can't attend."
Drake said he sat down with Mulder in December and suggested that if he won, she could stay in the public eye in Arlington Heights as something of an ambassador to the village, but she declined.
Hellner, also an attorney, said he sees the village president job as a chairman of the board, with the village manager acting more as the CEO.
"The village president should not be trying to manage everything in the village; that's not the job, and it's a weak-mayor form of government," he said.
Hellner said he spoke to the other trustees early in the race about helping take on some of the public appearances and time demands.
"Although the village president is certainly an ambassador to the public, the board can share that job," Hellner said.
Village Manager Bill Dixon said the change in leadership will be more of an external change, not likely to cause upheaval inside village hall. It won't affect the delivery of services to residents, he said.
"Everybody likes to see the mayor out at openings, dedications, groundbreakings, but there are other members of the village board who can help with those appearances," Dixon added.
"For Arlington Heights, it will be a change. The mayor has had a big footprint, and I mean that positively," said Dixon, who in his 21st year on the job is the only manager Mulder has ever worked with as mayor. "It's going to be an adjustment for everyone. But mayors change in communities from time to time, and the next person will do it their own way. The community will have to adjust, and I'm sure they will."
Change: All three candidates work downtown