Lake in the Hills mayoral candidates debate lack of board diversity

Two candidates vying to lead Lake in the Hills for the next four years disagree on how to address a lack of diversity on the village board.

Village President Paul Mulcahy will face Trustee Russ Ruzanski on April 4.

“It is not the responsibility of the village president to diversify the board of trustees,” said Mulcahy, 65, who previously served 10 years as village trustee.

Mulcahy was criticized by former Village President Tina Thornrose for appointing only friends and men to the village board. He has made four board appointments — all middle-aged white men — since his first term began May 2013.

Ruzanski, 70, a retired sales manager for Coca-Cola Chicago who has served as village trustee since 2011, said there is a need for diversity, especially women, on the village board.

“I am really surprised we still haven't reached that point yet where we feel that that's important on this village board, and it certainly is,” Ruzanski said during an interview with the Daily Herald this week. “If we're always getting the thoughts of one segment of the population and not including the other segment of the population ... I think that is absolutely where we should be right now. And I don't quite understand why we are not.”

Mulcahy defended his record on appointments, saying his first choice on two occasions was a woman who declined the job. He added that it's the responsibility of the community and voters to step forward and elect women.

Aside from the village president's race, three candidates are running for three trustee seats in April.

“All five candidates are males,” Mulcahy said. “All of them are over 50 years old. Where is the outcry from the community? Where are the women that are interested in doing this? I have to personally find a woman here that is interested in the position, has the time, the desire, who is at a stage in her life where her kids are not too much of a burden or her job or anything else. I don't personally know a lot of those women.”

In June, Mulcahy appointed Doug Cummings, the former police commission chairman, to fill the seat vacated by Trustee Frank Covone, who moved out of the village.

Covone also was a Mulcahy appointee to the board in May 2013. He was defeated in the April 2015 election and was reappointed in August 2015 to fill the seat when Trustee Denise Barreto — the town's first black trustee — resigned, citing a lack of diversity in the county before moving to Evanston.

Last month, Mulcahy appointed another male, David McPhee, to the seat left vacant by Trustee Paula Yensen's election to the McHenry County Board in November.

Mulcahy stressed that he interviewed five women and four men for the job but said McPhee was the clear choice because of his nine years of experience serving on the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District board and his being a lifelong village resident, former Army Ranger, combat veteran and son of a former village president.

“He rose above everybody else,” Mulcahy said.

Ruzanski rebutted, saying two of the people Mulcahy interviewed have complained the session was more of an “infomercial” for why they should vote for Mulcahy for president.

“I looked at all the resumes that came in ... I thought there were some very good candidates there,” Ruzanski said. “There was an excellent opportunity to at least consider a female on the board, and I believe the time is here to do this.”

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