Retiring Mayor Arlene Mulder wore the same red suit presiding over her last village board meeting on Monday that she wore on her first day in office 20 years ago.
Although that outfit stayed the same, most other things about Arlington Heights have changed in the two decades Mulder spent as village president and the 34 years she spent in public service, as her trustees and residents reminded her during an hourlong tribute at her last board meeting on Monday.
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"During the past 34 years you have seen this community change a great deal," said Trustee Thomas Glasgow, who began the tribute. "But it's been less about the buildings and the businesses and more about the people -- that has been the touchstone of your time as mayor."
Glasgow and other trustees commented on Mulder's contributions not only locally, but also regionally with the O'Hare Noise Commission and nationally with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Mulder was given a large pillow embroidered with the seal of Arlington Heights and a picture frame with photos over her time in office, including at the many groundbreakings and community events that became part of Mulder's trademark to always attend.
"I believe in public service and I believe that when you're elected by the public, that's what you should do," she said.
Mayor-elect Tom Hayes, who has been on the board with Mulder for 22 years, said he calculated that the two have had more than 500 meetings and more than 10,000 votes together over the years
Seth Goldberg, who is on the Commission for Citizens with Disabilities and works to plan events in the village to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, thanked Mulder for her commitment to inclusiveness and signed the lyrics to the song "That's What Friends Are For."
"Twenty years seems like a long time, but it's like the blink of an eye," Mulder, 68, said.
Mulder's husband, three children and five grandchildren were all in attendance for Monday night's meeting. The outgoing mayor joked that her next job will be baby-sitting, as her son and his wife expect twins in a few weeks.
"You have been our matriarch for 20 years. This community is better now then when you first took office," Glasgow said. "You may be stepping down, but you'll always be our mayor."
The board also presented Mulder with a plaque to be installed at the downtown Arlington Heights Metra station to honor her years of service. Hayes also read a proclamation that Sunday, April 28, is Arlene J. Mulder Day in Arlington Heights, a day that coincides with an open house for the community to say goodbye to Mulder from 2 to 5 p.m. at village hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road.
"It's been 34 of the best years of my life; it's been half my life," Mulder said closing the meeting and near tears. "Thanks to the citizens for letting me grow, learn and serve. This meeting, and this president of the village board of Arlington Heights, bids you adieu."