When Arlene Mulder first was elected village president of Arlington Heights in 1993, it was a bit difficult to know quite what to expect of her.
To be sure, she had survived a tough four-way race for mayor, besting incumbent Michael Schroeder, who's now the supervisor of Wheeling Township; longtime Trustee Julia Walsh; and outsider Rick Gellert.
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But such multiple-candidate races seldom lead to mandates. Though she won handily, it was with barely more than 50 percent of the vote.
And it was as true then as it would be later that Mulder's mild manner frequently leads others to underestimate both her skills and her will.
With all that as the backdrop, it was reasonable to wonder at the time whether Mulder would be limited to a caretaker role, in office like her immediate predecessors for a only short time, fulfilling the role of official dignitary at store openings but mainly serving in transition to keep the wheels of government moving until a true visionary would show up.
The true visionary, it turns out, was Arlene Mulder.
Just look at what the past 20 years have wrought for Arlington Heights.
It was a good and rooted community then as now: supported by able minds, quality services and, yes, "good neighbors."
But it also in 1993 was a community at a crossroads, a community enriched by its past but at the same time dangerously beholden to it.
Mulder courageously appreciated that you cannot live in the past; you must build upon it.
And that, to us, is her greatest legacy.
During her tenure, Arlington Heights experienced a renaissance that suburb after suburb envied and then tried to copy.
The village is not without its problems. Every community has them. New Mayor Tom Hayes will find unfinished business because the business of life and the business of a community is never complete.
But Arlington Heights is alive with an energy few suburbs match. It is enriched with an architecture and an embrace of the arts few suburbs possess. It supports its business community. It celebrates its people. It nurtures a sense of community.
All of this is a reflection of Arlene Mulder.
If you think of these things as characteristics of a town, you think of Arlington Heights. And if you think of them as attributes of a person, you think of Mayor Mulder.
It is her.
If you ask Mulder about all of this, she'll decline the credit. She'll credit the village staff, an exceptional one by all accounts. She'll credit her colleagues on the village board. She'll credit the people who live here.
She will, without doubt, be right about all that.
But she will neglect to add her role in acquiring the top talent and providing the atmosphere and framework for its performance. She will neglect to add her role in developing a collaborative atmosphere on the village board and the village's appointed commissions.
And she will neglect to add how much her infectious and tireless good cheer resonates within the community.
Twenty years comes and goes in the blink of an eye. Where once it was time for projecting, it now is time for assessing.
To Mayor Mulder, we provide this assessment: You have done good work. You have made your mark. You have left a legacy.
Thank you and best wishes.