Al Larson won't seek re-election as Schaumburg mayor
One of the longest-serving mayors in the Northwest suburbs says he won't seek re-election.
Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson said he will step down after the April 2019 election after 32 years in his current office and a total of 44 on the village board.
Larson made the announcement Monday, the last day of candidate filing for the Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates village board and mayoral races.
"I'm not going to be filing," he said. "My family wants me to not file. We have candidates willing to make that leap from what they're doing today to what they may be doing for years to come."
Four candidates did file for Schaumburg mayor, the most who can do so without triggering a Feb. 26 primary to narrow the field ahead of the April 2 general election.
The four hopefuls are longtime Trustee Tom Dailly and newcomers Nafees Rahman, Sunil Shah and Matthew J. Steward. Most filed on the first day, Nov. 19, while Rahman filed Nov. 20.
Trustee candidates vying for three available positions on the board are incumbents George Dunham and Mark Madej, zoning board of appeals member Brian Bieschke, newcomer Scott Felgenhauer and three more who filed just before Monday's 5 p.m. deadline. Dhitendra "Dhitu" Bhagwakar, Leon Mangum and former Schaumburg Township Democratic committeeman Rocco Terranova are running on a slate with Rahman.
Village Clerk Marilyn Karr has no challengers in her bid for re-election.
In Hoffman Estates, only incumbents Anna Newell, Gary Pilafas and Gary Stanton filed for the three available village board seats.
But Larson's announcement was Monday's biggest development in the races.
He said the decision to step down May 14 was in some ways difficult, but it was important for him to respect the wishes of his family.
"I have to tip my hat to my wife, Nancy, our five kids and our 12 grandchildren," he said.
Even before first winning a village trustee seat in 1975 and becoming mayor in 1987, Larson said he was inspired by the words of President John F. Kennedy that one person can make a difference. He added he saw that demonstrated by his predecessors in both village board positions.
"We have a bunch of world changers on the board right now," he said of his current colleagues.
In addition to helping shape the future of the village and, with fellow mayors, the surrounding area, Larson said being mayor opened doors he never would have anticipated. Among those were the opportunity, over the years, to meet with three U.S. presidents at the White House -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
"I've loved being mayor," Larson said. "I absolutely loved it. I didn't think it was ever boring."
Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod, who's held his current office for 18 years, said he understands the commitment required of Larson's 32-year tenure and 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."
McLeod added that on a village board, a mayor is really only a first among equals. The mayor is often looked to for a vision and a direction, even though he or she isn't necessarily going to be agreed with.
Larson was successful because of the detail of his plans, and in being persuasive about making them happen, McLeod said.
"It's his skill," he added. "You don't just end up with like-minded colleagues. You recruit. He was a great talent scout. They would disagree, but they would have the same basic vision for the village of Schaumburg."