Outgoing Wauconda mayor says he did 'A' work
As he enters the final months of his mayoral service, Wauconda's Frank Bart talks of his nearly four years in office in victorious, overwhelmingly positive terms.
"We did 'A' work," said Bart, who kept a campaign pledge and didn't file for a second term this month. "And we got 'A' results."
To back that up, Bart cited several successes: leaner municipal budgets that have resulted in financial surpluses; the hirings of Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner and Police Chief David Wermes, both of whom have since garnered respect and praise in the community; and the privately funded construction of the Heroes of Freedom Memorial that honors the people killed on 9/11.
Bart gave little consideration to the discord between himself and the trustees, or to the anger many residents expressed about his actions and objectives as mayor.
Among the controversies were the ouster of popular Police Chief Douglas Larsson in 2013; Bart's questioning of a voter-approved plan to bring Lake Michigan drinking water to town, which delayed the project and nearly cost Wauconda membership in the group providing the water; and the closing of the village's dispatch center, which led to about a dozen layoffs.
Things came to a head when Bart participated in a private teleconference about the dispatch center plan in July 2015 without first alerting or inviting the trustees or most of the town's residents. Board members were so fed up with the accumulated disputes that they slapped Bart with a no-confidence resolution.
Bart was unperturbed.
"I would much rather have not had any of the political maneuvering," he said. "But that's life."
Trustee Lincoln Knight, who led the no-confidence measure and now is running to succeed Bart as mayor, said officials "moved past" the contentiousness.
"It's only natural for those working on a team to have different views, or opinions on a topic from time to time," said Knight, who'll face Bryan Anderson in April's election. "It's that you work through them that matters."
Bart isn't the only Lake County mayor not seeking re-election. Others include Lake Villa's Frank Loffredo and Hainesville's Linda Soto.
A lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Reserve who saw combat in the Middle East, Bart said his military obligation is a big reason he isn't running for a second term. He has been named battalion commander of the Ohio-based 633rd Quartermaster Battalion, which will require more time.
He also has more professional responsibilities as group vice president of sales for an archery and hunting equipment company, called the Outdoor Group.
Bart said he never wanted to be a career politician, one of those legendary mayors who leads a town for decades.
"I did this as a community service," he said. "This was never meant to be long term for me."
Finances a priority
As mayor, Bart said he aimed to be a financial guardian for the people of Wauconda by controlling -- or reducing -- municipal spending.
That's why he demanded the plan for a Lake Michigan water system be re-examined. The financial structure of the loans funding the project didn't seem right to him, he said.
He also pushed to close the dispatch center to save money. After two years of discussions, the village board eventually opted to outsource the service to Lake Zurich -- a move officials have said could save Wauconda more than $2 million over five years.
The closure was criticized by the public at meetings and on social media. But Bart didn't waver, because he said the village's fiscal security was a greater priority.
"We needed to put the community on a good financial path," he said.
Bart didn't mind being the target of the community's anger when it came to the dispatch center or other issues.
"You're talking to a guy who's been shot at," he said.
When asked if he had any advice for his eventual successor, Bart said the mayor should focus on four key services: public safety, water, sewers and streets.
"Do the best (you) can with those four things," he said, "and everything will work out well."