Lombard at loggerheads on landing a leader

Updated 9/17/2012 8:34 AM

I give you the opening quote to staff writer Marie Wilson's story about the Lombard village board's inability to select an interim leader to fill out the remainder of Village President William Mueller's term.

"Take the high road and be professional," Trustee Greg Gron urged his fellow board members last week. "The Mueller family deserves a smooth road to the end of President Mueller's term. I suggest we leave any arguing to the election where it belongs."


The popular Mueller, Lombard's mayor for almost two decades, died last month with about eight months remaining on his term. But the road to settling on a temporary mayor was anything but smooth. In fact, not only could board members not decide on an acting mayor, they couldn't agree on when to discuss it next. The six-member board was split 3-3 on virtually every vote taken on the topic, including the idea of having a rotating interim mayor.

Complicating, and one might argue motivating, matters was the fact that at least two village board members -- Trustees Zachary Wilson and Keith Giagnorio -- are eyeing a run at the village presidency in April. A suggestion that those two be exempted from serving as acting mayor was discarded, as Wilson was the first person nominated, then defeated by the 3-3 vote. Another idea discarded was a self-ranking system from 1 to 6 among trustees, apparently to determine a winner by tallying up the points.

All the inaction prompted perhaps the best idea of the evening -- from Trustee Peter Breen, who suggested board members impose a pay freeze on themselves until they make a decision.

"I think every member of this board should forego payment from the people of Lombard until we decide this issue," he said. "Until we do our job, we take no pay."

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Another awkward issue prompted more board inaction this past week. Wilson attempted a reconsideration of the village's new map. Passed in July, it was required by law to more evenly divvy up the village's six voting districts. The map accomplished the mission some board members made no bones about: It left all six incumbents in their existing districts. It wasn't easy, as a narrow swath of District 2 had to be dragged to the north to take in Giagnorio's home. "Gerrymandering" was the way Wilson described it.

Yet, Wilson's new map, prepared with the help of village staff and more rigorously divided along major thoroughfares, didn't pass on a revote -- even though all the incumbents still landed in their same districts.

"I'm comfortable with what we agreed on, and I think we should just stay with that and move on," Giagnorio said, as yet another 3-3 vote was cast.

Trustee Laura Fitzpatrick noted the village board was doing the same thing politicians are lambasted for at the state and national level. "Every map drawn this year by every governing body has taken not into consideration the population, but the politician," she said. "We are no different. ... We've done pretty standard stuff; we've protected our incumbency."

One might argue the stalemate on selecting a temporary leader smacks of protecting one's own interests, too. Certainly if one is contemplating a run for mayor, being an incumbent often is a huge advantage in municipal elections. One of the better ideas I heard proffered was the suggestion that whoever gets the temporary appointment take a vow, sign an oath not to run for the mayor's job in April. But that was shot down, too.

The village board is scheduled to discuss Thursday filling the mayor's post. So far, the public has been kind of quiet. Might this be a good time for residents to show up and suggest their leaders make a decision about a leader for the next seven months?


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