New Mt. Prospect mayor ready to leave her mark
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Arlene Juracek, at the village's recent community prayer breakfast, will make economic development a priority.
Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer
Here is one of Arlene Juracek's dreams.
It's 2017, the year that the village will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and a big celebration takes place in the downtown area.
"And 100 percent of the downtown is developed and occupied," Juracek said. "That's what I want to happen, and I can't wait to get to work on it."
On Tuesday, Juracek formally took over as Mount Prospect's new mayor after running unopposed for the post in the April 9 election. She previously served for six years as a village trustee and 10 years before that on the zoning board. She took the reins from former Mayor Irvana Wilks, who has retired from public service.
Juracek, in a couple of interviews with the Daily Herald, said she is eager to take a top leadership role in Mount Prospect, an urge she attributes in part to her professional work as vice president of energy acquisition for ComEd and her recent position as director of the Illinois Power Agency. She quit her job at the agency as she pursued the mayor's post.
"In my corporate life I learned to enjoy being able to set the tone," she said. "I wanted to try that in local government, too. Leaving my corporate job left me with the time and flexibility you need to do something like that."
Looking ahead to her first term as mayor, Juracek cited the completion of the village's ongoing downtown redevelopment project as a key priority.
"The downtown area is what gives a community like ours its vibrancy, and its identity," she said. "It creates a strong sense of place."
She added that a healthy downtown would benefit Mount Prospect Elementary District 57, which doesn't draw tax revenue from the other major commercial developments in town, Randhurst Village and the Kensington Business Center, both of which are in River Trails District 26.
"What District 57 has is our downtown, and if we can make it as strong as possible, it will make the tax burden easier on the residents of that district," she said.
Other issues loom. Juracek wants the village to get back to road and sewer repairs, which have fallen behind in recent years. And she says the village will be active in discussions down in Springfield regarding the funding of police and firefighter pensions.
"Right now, we're in a very lean spot with our overall budget, and it's difficult when the state has all the power when it comes to telling us how to fund these pensions," she said.
Overall, Juracek is optimistic about the future of Mount Prospect. She said she's grateful to Wilks for putting the village in such a strong position, adding that she's learned much from her predecessor.
"(Wilks) carries a lot of history, having been here for 22 years," Juracek said, referring to the amount of time Wilks served in village government. "One thing I've learned from her is that there are six sides to every story. So make sure to ferret out all details of a situation before making a decision."
Wilks has been very supportive of her successor, saying that with Juracek in charge, "Mount Prospect is in a good place." Leo Floros, a former zoning-board colleague of Juracek, predicts she will be a good mayor.
"I thought she had higher aspirations, and I'm glad she did," Floros said.
Juracek, who's married and a mother of three, grew up in Niles and moved to Mount Prospect in 1977. Her son, Grant, said it was something of a foregone conclusion that she would be mayor someday.
"It just seemed like it was going to happen eventually," said Grant, a Mount Prospect resident and student at Kendall College who attended a recent reception welcoming Juracek and the newly sworn-in village trustees — Michael Zadel, Steven Polit, John Matuszak and Richard Rogers.
"The next logical step for her would be to take charge."
Her husband, Ed, when asked what it will be like with his wife as mayor, joked, "Scary."
Ed Juracek said he normally spends a lot of time at their second home, in Savannah, Ill. Now, he says, he'll be spending more time in Mount Prospect.
Juracek's daughter, Andrea, who lives in Chicago, said it will be a little strange to think of her mother as mayor.
"One of my friends' dads is the mayor of Morton Grove," Andrea said, "and I always used to joke with him that he was suburban royalty and kind of made fun of him.
"Now he said I can't do that anymore."
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