'It's a great time to pass the torch': 3 veteran Mundelein trustees stepping down from board
To say the Mundelein village board is losing a trio of veterans once new members take office next week is an understatement.
Between them, trustees Ray Semple, Dawn Abernathy and Robin Meier have a combined 45 years as elected officials.
Abernathy and Meier gave up their trustee posts this year and ran for mayor, ultimately losing to incumbent Steve Lentz in the April 6 election. Abernathy has spent eight years on the board, and Meier 11 years over two stints.
Semple, the dean of the board with 26 years' experience, decided it was time to step down and didn't run again.
This Monday's board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at village hall, will be their last as trustees, and they'll be honored for their service. At the next meeting on May 10, Sol Cabachuela, Jenny Ross and Tim Wilson will be sworn in as new trustees.
Over the course of their careers, Abernathy, Meier and Semple helped oversee some tremendous projects, including the construction of police and fire stations and a new village hall, downtown redevelopment and the current $9 million flood-prevention effort in the center of town, just to name a few.
"Hopefully, after 26 years, you're involved in a few things," said Semple, the longest-serving elected official in Mundelein history. "It's been a purpose in life."
Semple's public service actually began as a teen, when he worked summers in the public works department.
"It was everything from mowing the lawn at the old village hall and police station to working on sewer main breaks," Semple, 59, recalled.
Semple later interned for then-Village Administrator Ken Marabella.
In 1985, Semple was appointed to a seat on the village's planning and zoning commission. Semple unsuccessfully ran for the board in 1989 and 1991 before winning his first election in 1995.
Semple admits he once dreamed of becoming Mundelein's mayor, and he considered a run at the big chair. But because of work and other factors, it wasn't to be.
"It's a great time to walk away right now," he said. "It's a great time to pass the torch."
Abernathy, 55, joined the village board in 2013. She built a reputation as a fiscal conservative, fighting against both property tax increases and what she deemed extravagant spending.
"That was always my thing," Abernathy said.
For example, Abernathy was among the trustees who opposed Lentz's plan to build a municipal park on the west side of Route 45 near Diamond Lake. She'd criticized the project from its inception, saying creating parkland should be the park district's job, not the village's.
Her stances earned her support in the community but also occasional barbs, as in 2018 when she opposed the purchase of new gateway signs by saying it was "like putting lipstick on a pig." Abernathy later apologized for the remark.
In addition to her run for mayor, Abernathy ran for state representative in the 59th District in 2016, but lost to then-incumbent Carol Sente.
Stung by this month's election defeat, Abernathy said she's finished with politics. But her community service will continue, through groups such as Mundelein-Vernon Hills Rotary Club and Carmel Catholic High School's Street Scenes project.
Meier, 67, served on the board from 2008 to 2015 and again starting in 2017. Those 11 years of service make her the second-most senior trustee on the board.
Whereas some elected officials become known for bombast and showy speeches, Meier was even-tempered at board meetings, whether she was asking questions of developers, debating an issue with a mayor or fellow trustees, or sharing an opinion.
She pushed for more transparency in village government, calling for live internet broadcasts of committee and commission meetings, not just board meetings.
"The greatest legacy I could have is a legacy of integrity, while being open and honest in all dealings," Meier said. "I also tried to always incorporate checks and balances with full accountability in all decisions."
Meier said it's too soon to consider future political plans.