Steve Lentz settling in as Mundelein's mayor
For new Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz, the hardest part of the job isn't keeping cantankerous trustees in line or fielding complaints from angry residents.
It's the prospect of not coaching youth sports for the first time in 20 years.
"My time is so much more limited now," Lentz explained. "That's difficult for me. Football starts soon and I'm already missing the sense of camaraderie among the coaches and also meeting new players and parents."
Lentz took office in May. He defeated village Trustee Robin Meier and veteran Mundelein Park and Recreation District Commissioner Wally Frasier for the post.
Lentz, 51, had been a village trustee since 2009. Outside of politics, he works as a director of education and research at OptionVue Systems International in Libertyville.
In a candid interview with the Daily Herald, Lentz talked about his favorite aspects of being mayor, whether he's treated any differently around town and his goals for the village he's called home since 1996.
Q: You've been mayor for about two months now. Does it still feel new? Or have you settled into the big chair?
A: Ah, the big chair. Tell you what: It's one big multi-tasking challenge. It's tougher than I thought to run the meeting and call the votes while at the same time engaging with the trustees and thoughtfully listening to their points. I'm still getting used to that but experience will help.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise since becoming mayor?
A: To be honest, it never struck me just how bad the conditions are within our village hall building. Previously, as a trustee, I dropped in occasionally to get my mail or for a meeting. But since my office is there and I drop in several times a week now, I've begun to really notice. We have lots of village employees with significant responsibilities essentially working out of an old Victorian house that hasn't been remodeled in decades. The new facility can't be done soon enough.
Q: What do you like best about the job so far?
A: I really like representing our village in both official and unofficial capacities: DARE graduations; dinners; receptions; meetings with developers; even golf outings and fundraisers. I really like all of that.
Q: How is being mayor different from being a trustee?
A: Well, the office is bigger ... and now I don't vote on every item unless there is a tie. Big difference. Instead of wrangling with other trustees over some issues, I now seek consensus so that things get done in a positive context. That's my real focus: Set realistic consensus-based goals and keep a positive vibe so that things get done.
Q: Are you treated any differently at home or by your friends now that you're mayor?
A: Oh sure. My kids and some of their friends really get a kick out of calling me "Mr. Mayor." People recognize me more around town and that is taking some getting used to.
Q: You defeated Wally Frasier and Robin Meier to win the mayor's post. Both continue to serve the public, either on the park board or the village board. Have you reached out to them since the election to collaborate on projects or for other reasons?
A: Robin and I have had lunch and we're working on a technology initiative stemming from her election platform. It pertains to our village website and should enhance our transparency even more. I attended Wally's very well run American Legion fundraiser at Village Green and had a great time. He and I were in the Memorial Day ceremony as well.
Q: Your predecessor, Ken Kessler, served eight years as mayor. How long would you like to serve? Why?
A: Eight years sounds about right. We'll need the next four years for the economy to fully turn around and then another four years for the hard work to fiscally start paying off. It's tough to see beyond then.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your first year as mayor? In your first term?
A: In a year, I'd like for us to have our marketing and communications area beefed up significantly with a greatly enhanced web presence. Also, we'll have the village hall nearly complete and I'd really like for another major development in town to be at least announced or even in a pre-construction phase. In four years, I hope to have sales tax revenue greatly enhanced and poised so that we can reduce the property tax rate. That would be a home run.
Q: Tell me something you love about Mundelein. What's your favorite thing about the village?
A: Without question, the best thing about Mundelein is the people. We are a group of humble and down-to-earth folks who work hard and are unpretentious. I think many people move here due to the affordability and then choose to stay because of the people.