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posted: 5/4/2013 6:00 PM

Editorial: A changing of the guard across the suburbs

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It is difficult to remember a time when so many mayors and village presidents left office in the suburbs.

They're leaving in droves this month, most of them this week. Some were forced out in last month's elections. Many simply decided that it was time to step down.

The list of departing mayors includes longtime officeholders such as Larry Hartwig in Addison, Bob Iden in Bloomingdale, Arlene Mulder in Arlington Heights and Ed Plaza in Lake in the Hills. Some, like Michael Airdo in Bartlett, had been village president only briefly. And there are many who may not have been mayor so extraordinarily long but had been active in local politics for some time. People like Judy Abruscato in Wheeling, Jerald Bartels in East Dundee, Don DeWitte in St. Charles, Marty Moylan in Des Plaines and Irvana Wilks in Mount Prospect.

Among others leaving office are Robert Abboud of Barrington Hills, Ed Bender of Fox Lake, Deborah Birutis of Winfield, Suzanne Branding of Lake Zurich, Tom Cullerton of Villa Park, Jim Dietz of Round Lake, Debbie Herrmann of Island Lake, Larry Keller in West Dundee, Tom Kierna in Cary, Mark Knigge of Wauconda, Jess Ray of Mettawa and Mark Pfefferman of Glen Ellyn.

Quite a large number. It's possible we're leaving somebody out. It's hard to publish such a lengthy list without running the risk of forgetting someone.

For the suburbs, it means a huge changing of the guard. Almost one out of every two suburbs that had a mayoral race last month is going to have a new mayor this month.

That brings some benefits, of course. New leadership, fresh ideas, a different perspective. And in many cases, perhaps, stronger listening skills, less danger of a sense of job entitlement that can arise from long tenure in even the most people-oriented of public servants.

But make no mistake, such a major shift also has its drawbacks. Less experience, obviously. Less continuity. A loss in many cases in relationship building, particularly outside the community. And the danger that there could be an attempt at change for change's sake.

These aren't insurmountable challenges. And with rare exception, capable new mayors have been elected to replace the old guard. Most have solid professional administrative staffs to lean on. Almost all will find support and advice from colleagues in neighboring communities. And many can call on the mayors they're replacing for help, especially the ones who stepped aside willingly. To all those new officeholders, we wish good luck.

Meanwhile, to those departing, let us all express our thanks.

Local politics is a demanding job. You don't get into it without some sort of ego, to be sure. And without a doubt, a few of the names listed above are downright controversial. One or two might even be described as cantankerous.

But you also don't get into politics without a wish to serve. All of these mayors, from the best to the worst, have wanted to make their communities better, and in one way or another virtually all of them have. Many have reshaped their towns; most have effected major improvements. And beyond any accomplishments, they all have given mightily of themselves, of their time and of their best efforts.

For that, we all should be grateful.

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