Former Arlington Heights trustee remembered for support of downtown growth
Former Arlington Heights Trustee Kathie Hahn, an ally to former longtime Village President Arlene Mulder, is being remembered for her support of downtown redevelopment in the 1990s, local schools and community volunteerism.
Hahn, a small-business owner and marketing pro, served on the elected panel from 1991 to 1999. She died unexpectedly Dec. 20 at 71.
"She was dedicated to it, and she was like most of the trustees -- they all interacted with people in the community and their neighborhoods," said Mulder, who appointed Hahn as her president pro tem after becoming mayor in 1993.
Hahn was on the village board during a period of continued growth and development in the downtown -- change that didn't always come easy, amid contentious board debates.
"It was very polarizing," daughter Stacy Ryan remembers. "She was always so good at having a neutral listening ear to looking at things. She really did take the time to see both sides and really hear everything and listen."
But generally, Hahn was seen as pro-development, such as with the approval of the Arlington Town Square project in 1997.
The night of the 7-2 vote to approve the controversial commercial and residential development that closed down a one-block stretch of Davis Street, Hahn said it would be an asset for a community that was really a village no longer.
"We're getting a very good reputation for our downtown," she said. "That didn't happen overnight."
Hahn got involved in local politics after years of involvement with the PTA at Olive Elementary School, where her two daughters attended. Later, she led the campaign that resulted in voters approving a tax increase for Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 in 2005.
She also was a member of Thomas Middle School's first graduating class in 1964-65, after her family relocated to Arlington Heights for her father's job.
Hahn and her husband, Carl, operated Prim Cleaners, which had five locations, including its main store at Rand Road and Thomas Street.
"My mom had the perspective as a citizen and a business owner, and she brought all of that knowledge to her decision making on the board," Ryan said.
In the late 1990s, Hahn was marketing manager for Lutheran Home and Services, followed by a short stint as executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. She became the Arlington Heights Park District's first marketing director in 1999, then went to the Park Ridge Park District in 2007. She retired in 2014.
A two-time breast cancer survivor, Hahn was recognized with a village Hearts of Gold award in 2008 for her work with the Northwest Community Hospital breast cancer foundation and marketing department, serving as a role model in helping others with that diagnosis.
The family is coping with the recent losses of both Hahn and her husband, who died last February from cancer at age 74.
"My sister and I both live in Arlington Heights because our parents loved this community so much. We raised our kids here," Ryan said.
A celebration of life is planned for a later date.