For the next few weeks nearly everything Arlene Mulder does will be a "last."
As she prepares to retire after two decades as Arlington Heights mayor and 34 years in public service, Mulder gave her last State of the Village speech to the Arlington Heights Rotary Thursday afternoon and said that the village is in good shape, and in good hands for the future.
Before her speech Mulder was busy hugging and thanking nearly everyone in the room. During lunch the group played a game of Mulder trivia, answering questions about her time in public life and her details about Arlington Heights. (Question: "What year did she move to Arlington Heights?" Answer: 1969.)
As part of her annual address, Mulder updated the community volunteers and business leaders on the financial state of the village and major projects, like the start of construction at Arlington Downs and ongoing efforts to deal with emerald ash borer.
She also addressed the village's plans for a new police station sometime in the next five years -- to be paid for with bonds when old debt expires -- and how the village will alleviate flooding issues after looking at several studies that are now under way.
"Disregard all the campaign rhetoric because we're in good shape," Mulder said. "I look forward to the next chapter for the village with Mayor Tom Hayes."
Toward the end of her speech, discussing how quickly 20 years have gone and her appreciation for the residents, Mulder became too overcome with emotion to continue.
"It's the citizens of this town, not the staff, not the elected officials," she said before breaking off. She was rescued from having to continue by a standing ovation.
"Thank you for your faith and trust in me for the last 20 years," she finished.
In retirement, Mulder has said, she will spend more time with her family, primarily her husband, Al, who she said has been "on hold" for the past 34 years. Two new grandchildren are due in the next few weeks.
Since she will be handing her gavel over to Hayes on May 6, members of the Rotary gave Mulder a few new tools she can use instead.
Longtime friend Deb Whisler presented her with a bird feeder, watering can and other gardening items.
She was given the Paul Harris award, a Rotary recognition she also received in 2003, based on her contributions to the community.
"She's opened so many doors for me in this town and she's just been so accessible to all of us," said Whisler who is also the director of communications and marketing at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
"She's just such a ball of energy. She's very focused and she gets a lot done, but at the end of the day she asks us not to call her mayor, and she's just my friend."