Editorial: Larson instilled sense of pride in Schaumburg -- and all of the suburbs
When Al Larson officially hands over his gavel in May, the long-serving Schaumburg mayor will be lauded for an impressive list of accomplishments. Not many suburbs, after all, lay claim to a baseball stadium, convention center and a village-owned airport.
Schaumburg has been around for 62 years, and Larson has been a guiding force for 44 of them. He's held the title of mayor for 32 years -- more than half the town's history -- and served as a trustee for 12 years prior to that.
Last month, the 80-year-old announced he would not seek re-election in April. He told Daily Herald reporter Eric Peterson that the decision was a hard one, made at the request of his family. His successor will be elected in April, ushering in a new era for the village.
For decades, Larson has presided over this thriving community while still pushing for improvements in a village that is now the second-largest hub of economic activity in Illinois.
"We are building a downtown for the Northwest suburbs," he has said.
And in many ways, that is what has happened.
But Larson did something more than that, too, something far less tangible than the shopping and entertainment mecca whose development he oversaw.
Larson fought for the suburbs -- for Schaumburg, of course, but ultimately for all our towns. He confronted head-on Chicago elitism and dismissive attitudes about the suburbs, reminding those of us who call the area home -- and those who don't -- that this is a great place to live, to work and to play.
As we have pointed out before, we in the suburbs have the best of both worlds. We are a short drive from Chicago's world-class museums and incredible theaters, but we have wonderful theaters here as well -- along with incredible restaurants, arts centers, comedy clubs and a retail landscape that embraces both big box stores and small businesses.
Al Larson had a hand in developing that landscape and, perhaps more importantly, in instilling a deep pride in what the suburbs have to offer. That will be among his greatest legacies.
Larson is not perfect, and he has made his share of human mistakes. But we respect his openness, his passion, his independence and his commitment. It will be hard to imagine Schaumburg without Al Larson. Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod recently summed up why Larson is considered one of the Northwest suburbs' most successful mayors.
"Al Larson bleeds Schaumburg," McLeod said. "He had a vision for Schaumburg and was very successful in implementing it. He was a giant of the Northwest suburbs."
He still is.
We wish him well in his last months of office and in his well-deserved retirement. And we thank him for his long and impressive service.