For the first time in 34 years, Bloomingdale Mayor Bob Iden's Monday nights will be free, and he's perfectly fine with that. He just wishes it was on his own terms.
Iden's 20-year mayoral run and previous 14-year tenure as a village board member came to an end Tuesday, during only the second contested race of his mayoral career.
Former state Rep. Franco Coladipietro, who retired from the state House last year rather than run against political ally Dennis Reboletti in the newly drawn 45th House District, captured 1,584 votes to Iden's 1,410, according to unofficial results.
Iden's career in village government began when he served on a couple of commissions before successfully running for trustee in 1979. In 1992, he was appointed acting mayor after Samuel Tenuto was chosen for a seat on the DuPage County Board.
A year later, Iden ran for his first full term as mayor. Lou Muzi challenged him, running a quiet campaign that amassed a couple hundred votes. The support for Iden since then has been overwhelming. Until this spring, no one else had stepped forward to challenge him.
"Leading the village of Bloomingdale to heights we have achieved has been a great experience for me, and I have built some great relationships that I otherwise never would have," Iden said the day after his defeat. "But now there's a new avenue for me to follow, and I'm just fine with that."
That avenue, he said, may or may not find him back in local politics but definitely will lead him to fulfilling a longtime goal of riding a bullet train in China, attending next year's British Open in Scotland and spending more quality time with his wife and three grandchildren.
"I'll take some time and re-evaluate my priorities and opportunities. I'm actually coming to terms with the fact that I'm actually looking forward to a break," he said. "I'm 70, but I've heard 70 is the new 50, and I feel better today than I have in years. I'm in a very good position. Every day I can do whatever I want to do and feel good about it."
What he doesn't feel good about, however, is how he was unseated by Coladipietro, whom he considered a friend.
"Having never had a serious challenger in 20 years, you could see how I could have become complacent, but that wasn't the case," he said. "I worked harder in the last four weeks than I have in 10 years. My concern was the way in which this was orchestrated."
Iden said Coladipietro "was bored" because he was in the House minority and wanted out, but also wanted to stay politically relevant.
"He came to me and said 'Bob, I have a young family and law practice and I want to stay local, but I won't run against you if you're going to run,'" Iden said. "Two months later his filings show up. We have breakfast and he says 'Bob, there's an opportunity for me to run.' Something changed his mind, and I think it was pressure from the (Bloomingdale) Township Republicans."
Party chairman and former Bloomingdale village board member John Dabrowski said he feels "bad that (Iden) feels we ousted him."
"That we did not do. I was so afraid of even having that perception in any of the township races, that I told everyone we were not getting involved in local races," Dabrowski said. "That, however, did not stop any committeemen from going out walking, putting up signs or supporting Franco or anyone else."
Dabrowski said it was a mere coincidence that the Bloomingdale Township Republican website directed those with questions to call Coladipietro at the Republican headquarters main telephone number or that Coladipietro signs were often seen with or near signs for Dabrowski and his slate.
"This was absolutely not a power play on Bob, but I don't know that I or anyone else would ever be able to convince him," he said.
Coladipietro also insists there was never any deceit, and he still considers Iden a friend.
"We had breakfast, and I told him I was going to run. It's not like my filing papers just showed up out of nowhere and surprised him," Coladipietro said. "I have a great deal of respect for Bob and we worked well together, but we differed in the approach we should take in town and that was what a lot of the campaign was about. I don't think the personal relationship necessarily should come into play when we're talking about issues that are affecting the people and the things people are talking about in town."
Iden, however, feels stung by what he sees as a partisan influence on a local race.
"I served residents of Bloomingdale, no matter their political affiliation, for 34 years," he said. "I've been nonpartisan my entire career. We don't need that influence in local government."
Once the dust settles and Iden returns from China, however, he said he'd like to sit down with Coladipietro. He estimated the learning curve for a former state representative moving into a mayoral role to be "three or four years" to get a handle on how the budget works differently from the state budget and the functions of all of the local departments.
"I've called him twice (since Tuesday night) and left messages that said 'Franco, I will be back May 13. When I come back, I would very much like to sit down and talk about the things you want to accomplish and how I can help,'" Iden said. "I want that rapport with him because it's not healthy to have controversy in a town like ours."
Coladipietro says he's very receptive to the idea.
"I would very much like for Bob to remain a big part of the community and I hope that I could call him from time to time for counsel," he said.