He's been Wauconda's mayor for just a week, and Frank Bart already has had to deal with a harsh critic.
"While attempting to put my 4-year-old to bed, I stood in his bedroom doorway blocking his way to the playroom. Frustrated, he exclaimed, 'I don't like the new mayor,'" Bart explained in an email to the Daily Herald. "It took me a second to realize he was talking about me."
Bart, a business consultant and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, upset incumbent Mark Knigge to win the mayor's seat in the April 9 election. It was a tough race -- not as ugly as some mayoral contests in Lake County, but definitely heated at times for the candidates and their supporters.
In this interview -- his first long session with the newspaper since the election -- Bart talks about the campaign, his goals for the village and what he loves about Wauconda.
Q. The election was close -- a mere 33 votes put you on top. What do you think that says about the job you'll have to do to win over people who voted for Mark Knigge?
A. We will do everything we can to bring the old Wauconda and new Wauconda together as one Wauconda. Wauconda is a warm and patriotic community, and we will all come together for the benefit of our neighbors. I don't think you can underestimate what we actually accomplished with One Wauconda (his slate). We beat a popular incumbent and there was low voter turnout. Both of those factors benefit an incumbent victory, yet we won by 2 percent.
Q. Tell us about your political philosophy, and your leadership philosophy, and how the two meet.
A. I believe we have to do our best to carefully employ our neighbor's money for the common good. Credibility is my currency, and I will be able to look each neighbor in the eye and tell them how and why I've made my choices. I believe leadership is a role where we are in service to those whom we lead. Abraham Lincoln once said, "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent." Our neighbors have put a great deal of trust in us by giving us their consent.
Q. What's the No. 1 thing on your agenda, as your term begins? How will you accomplish that task?
A. I will reduce the water and sewer rates (and) improve the billing cycle options and payment options. Our staff is working to develop and implement the "Pay Your Way" plan where you can pay online by credit card, debit card, check or automatic funds transfer without a convenience fee. We will offer a monthly or quarterly billing cycle, and reduce the late fee to a flat fee. We plan to offer a summer sewer credit and we are also exploring the option to receive your bill electronically in order to reduce costs and go green.
Q. Are you planning any key staff changes?
A. I am planning to assess every position at the village, starting at the top, in order to ensure we are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. The changes will come gradually as I have time to meet with each employee, discuss their ideas, and implement new changes. We value our employees and will build the best team we can.
Q. Wauconda voted you into office but only one of the trustee candidates running with you. In other words, voters split tickets. Is there a message there for you? What does it say about the town and its residents?
A. I've met with each member of the new board of trustees and we will work well together. I believe that each of them have the best intentions for Wauconda.
Q. You were very kind to Mayor Knigge and his wife the night you took office, but the campaign was marked by some ugliness. Some people took it personally. How will you mend those fences with people?
A. People in Wauconda are passionate about moving our community forward to a more prosperous future. I hold no ill will toward anyone for exercising their political rights. I spent most of life in service to our country in order defend those rights. I have and will continue to reach out to all of those who want to work to bring Wauconda together and keep us moving forward.
Q. Tell me something great about Wauconda, and what you'll do to make it even better.
A. There are so many wonderful things about Wauconda. Going back to why the town was founded here, Bangs Lake. I love Bangs Lake and think it's the crown jewel of Wauconda. I will work to make it better by clearing the weeds and by working to coordinate more public beach access so that we become the destination spot we once were.
Q. The flip side: Tell me something about the town that needs improving, something that really needs work.
A. Economic development is a long-term issue in Wauconda. We will work to grow and diversify our economic base in order to provide sustainability and a higher quality of life.
Q. Readers and voters know about your military background. Pull back the curtain a bit and share something personal they will find surprising.
A. I started my first job two weeks after graduating from college as a team leader for the Lincoln's Challenge Program launch. I worked there as a mentor for delinquent youth who were seeking a fresh start and working on their GED. I had 20 teenagers, mostly gang members, whom I mentored and taught. All but two graduated the program, received their GED and accepted employment. I have seen several members from the program in Chicago and they have done well for themselves. It was a very challenging and rewarding experience. The program is still going strong.