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updated: 4/10/2013 7:48 PM

Lessons to, from DuPage mayors: Listen, be cordial

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  • Newly elected mayors and village presidents from DuPage County gathered Wednesday at the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton. First row from left: Rich Veenstra of Addison, Keith Giagnorio of Lombard and Gayle Smolinski of Roselle. Second row: Deborah Bullwinkel of Villa Park, Alex Demos of Glen Ellyn and David Brummel of Warrenville. Third row: Frank Soto of Bensenville, Franco Coladipietro of Bloomingdale, Joe Broda of Lisle and Erik Spande of Winfield.

       Newly elected mayors and village presidents from DuPage County gathered Wednesday at the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton. First row from left: Rich Veenstra of Addison, Keith Giagnorio of Lombard and Gayle Smolinski of Roselle. Second row: Deborah Bullwinkel of Villa Park, Alex Demos of Glen Ellyn and David Brummel of Warrenville. Third row: Frank Soto of Bensenville, Franco Coladipietro of Bloomingdale, Joe Broda of Lisle and Erik Spande of Winfield.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Video: DuPage mayors look to future

 
 

Among the mayors and village presidents elected Tuesday in DuPage County were several longtime incumbents, including some who ran unopposed and others who easily cruised to victory over their opponents.

But there are some new leaders as well, and they've already begun to seek some wisdom from their more-seasoned counterparts.

The top elected officials from 10 DuPage municipalities gathered Wednesday for the Daily Herald's Class of 2013 group photo at the county's administration building, shaking hands and sharing experiences the day after their election night victories.

Winfield Village President-elect Erik Spande is one newcomer who will attempt to heal a fractured village board where debates have often gotten personal. Spande, a village trustee who has sided with the Winfield United minority group, will now be in the majority after his slatemates also were elected.

But he's promising to reach out to the other side in an effort to improve civility -- important advice he says he received before Election Day. Spande attended an event for municipal, school and park district officials last fall at Cantigny Park where Warrenville Mayor Dave Brummel provided tips for successful governance.

"He said the primary goal of a village board is to make sure there's due process and to make sure those processes are reasonably implemented," Spande said. "To make sure there's a degree of collegiality, you treat residents with respect, you treat staff fairly and treat each other with respect. That forms good government.

"When he said that, I said, 'That's what I need for Winfield,'" Spande said.

Spande met Brummel at the county administration building Wednesday and thanked him for his advice.

"I'm delighted Erik picked up on the things I said," Brummel said. "You have to have a clear open process that's consistent and always treat people respectfully. We're not dictators. We're servants of the people."

Brummel, first elected in 2005 in a four-way race, said elected officials in Warrenville have experienced divisions in the past -- conflict that "wasn't in the best interest of the community." In 2009 he ran unopposed, and this year, he handily defeated his lone opponent.

Lisle Village President Joe Broda is another longtime mayor who remembers when there wasn't the relative calm in his town that there is now. Broda was a village trustee in 1998 when Meijer sought to develop a vacant site on Maple Avenue. The mayor at the time, Ronald Ghilardi, supported the project; Broda and many residents didn't, and he defeated Ghilardi, a three-term incumbent, in the 2001 election.

Broda said Ghilardi and members of the village board who voted for the project "didn't listen to the people."

"You don't have all the answers," Broda says he would tell new mayors. "The key is to listen."

Bensenville Village President Frank Soto, who unseated a 24-year incumbent in 2009, said any mayor's agenda for a town can only go so far if there isn't also a village board willing to support it. When Soto defeated 24-year incumbent John Geils in 2009, he had four trustee candidates on his slate also win. On Tuesday, Soto's Changed Bensenville slate cruised to victory.

"Sometimes mayors walk into a very divided board and very difficult situations. Those mayors have a much harder time to get anything done," Soto said. "When you see politics take priority over the future success of the village, that's when things grind to a halt."

Soto said after his first election, he received good advice from longtime Mayors Bill Mueller of Lombard and Larry Hartwig of Addison, and he became involved in the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, a coalition of municipal officials that regularly meets to address regional and state issues. The position of mayor has changed over the years, Soto says, from one that dealt solely with day-to-day village issues such as trash collection, to a role where networking with other elected officials is paramount.

"If your state representative doesn't know who you are, your opportunities to be involved in critical legislation -- or prevent legislation that could be extremely damaging to your town -- is compromised," Soto said. "You can't live in a bubble."

Other mayors or village presidents who won seats Tuesday include Franco Coladipietro of Bloomingdale, Linda Jackson of Glendale Heights, Gayle Smolinski of Roselle, Deborah Bullwinkel of Villa Park, Ruben Pineda of West Chicago, Keith Giagnorio of Lombard, Tom Weisner of Aurora, Jeff Pruyn of Itasca, Richard Veenstra of Addison, Alexander Demos of Glen Ellyn and Tony Ragucci of Oakbrook Terrace.

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