Will potential 2021 mayoral race affect chemistry on the Mount Prospect board?
Change is stirring in Mount Prospect, with downtown redevelopment ramping up and the village's police and fire departments preparing to settle into new digs.
On the village board, however, one thing remains constant: the presence of its senior trustee, Paul Hoefert, who has served 28 years on the panel.
But even that might change. Hoefert has his sights set on the mayor's office in the 2021 election.
Mayor Arlene Juracek has not yet said whether she'll seek a third term, but she and Hoefert have differed philosophically in recent years, raising questions about how a potential contest between the two longtime public servants might affect the village board.
For his part, Hoefert said his focus is on serving as a trustee.
"The plan is to run for mayor in two years. But right now I'm a trustee, re-elected, and that's how I approach the role. Not as potentially a future mayor, but as a trustee," Hoefert said.
"I believe I have an excellent relationship with the mayor. We don't always agree. And I don't always agree with other board members, either individually or collectively," he added. "But the way I look at it, that's why we're up there. We're not up there to agree with each other and to go along to be a cohesive unit for every decision."
Viewed as a contrarian by some, Hoefert said he doesn't see that as a bad thing.
"We are up there either to vote with the people or to vote the way that we think the people would want us to vote. But everybody's perspective on that is different," he said.
Juracek also does not worry that the board's dynamic will change.
"I always welcome a diversity of opinion. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," she said. "We respect each other's opinions and respect each other as people with the right to hold legitimate points of view."
If the two wind up running for mayor, voters should expect to see clear differences in philosophy. This has shown itself in discussions on redeveloping the downtown, borrowing for major projects like the new police and fire stations, and settling issues through referendum.
"I think it can be very dangerous when the board abrogates its duty as elected representatives entirely to the referendum thing," Juracek said. "Many times, markets are swift. They turn on a dime. Many times you have to act quickly, and referendums can take months and months and months, so you may end up losing out on opportunities if you rely too heavily on referendums."
Hoefert noted he first ran for trustee 28 years ago on a platform of having referendums on major capital projects.
"And I still hold to that. And every time we have had a major public project, I have asked for a referendum," he added. "We used to hold referendums regularly. It was just a matter of course. And somewhere along the line, we deviated from that and we have never gone back."
Juracek and Hoefert were on opposite sides of the recent approval of Maple Street Lofts, the $110 million redevelopment of a former industrial site on the south side of downtown.
Hoefert said he does not oppose development but sided with the site's neighbors who argued that the plan calls for two many apartments and would create safety and traffic issues.
"Clearly, this impacts that neighborhood more than anybody else in the village. So we need to be listening to those people," he said.
But Juracek says it's urgent to move forward, noting that plans for the downtown fell through with the onset of the Great Recession.
"Every day there is a prognosticator who says the economy may turn this way or that way, and if we dither too long, we could very easily lose the opportunity," she said.
Trustee Colleen Saccotelli said she expects board business to move along without a blip.
"There are races every two years where people are running against each other, and everyone is respectful and professional and really committed to the business of serving the people of Mount Prospect. … I don't think it's going to change," she said.
Trustee William Grossi added, "For me, it will make no difference. We've been really able to work very well together, so I don't see that changing."