'He absolutely loved being mayor': Prospect Heights mourns Nick Helmer

An earlier version of this article misidentified Prospect Heights' longest-tenured city council member. It is Matthew Dolick.

Three-term Prospect Heights Mayor Nicholas J. Helmer, who used his professional background in real estate to bring a renewed emphasis on economic development to the city, has died.

"He would fondly call our city, 'Prosperous Heights,'" 3rd Ward Council Member Wendy Morgan-Adams said Thursday, a day after Helmer's death. "His professional abilities and skills will be the biggest loss. He had the ability to make things happen and follow through."

Helmer's leadership brought the city's financial standing from a strained one when he took office in 2011 to the position of strength it is today, she said.

Helmer, who with his wife, Gail, spent four decades and raised their son and daughter in Prospect Heights, preceded his tenure as mayor with 14 years as the city's representative on the board of directors for Chicago Executive Airport.

Helmer, 79, got involved in elected politics relatively late in life, but he came to embrace the role.

"He absolutely loved being mayor," City Administrator Joe Wade said Thursday.

Helmer first was elected in 2011, defeating incumbent Mayor Dolly Vole by a wide margin. He won reelection in 2015 and 2019.

He died Wednesday, and colleagues and associates were informed by his wife on Thursday morning, Wade said.

Though Helmer recently had been hospitalized and missed a couple of city council meetings, officials who spoke about his passing were uncertain about the cause of death.

"It came as a shock to me," 5th Ward Council Member Matthew Dolick said. "I have always had great respect for him. He always wanted to do what was best for the city overall."

Morgan-Adams said the loss of Helmer will be a personal one as well as professional for her and fellow council members.

"It was sudden and shocking for all of us," she said. "I'm heartbroken."

By profession, Helmer was a Certified Property Manager and a licensed real estate broker, and he held a degree in business communications from Loyola University's Mundelein College. He had served as a director of Inland Bank, with his primary focus being the marketing of the bank's real estate services.

He served as president for two terms of the Institute of Real Estate Management's Chicago Chapter, where he was awarded "CPM of the Year"; president of Chicago's West Side Real Estate Board; and director of the Chicago Board of Realtors.

Helmer's service on the airport board of directors undoubtedly was aided by his experience as a licensed pilot.

He was a member of the basketball coaching staff of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights for more than 35 years and also served on the school's Distinguished Alumni Committee.

Helmer first attended college at DePaul University, but his education was interrupted after three years there by service in the Army. While posted in Europe, he served as a newspaper reporter, photographer and radio broadcaster for the Central France area.

City officials Thursday were in the preliminary stages of enacting the succession process decreed by a Prospect Heights ordinance. Kathleen Quinn, 2nd Ward council member, served as mayor pro tem at Monday's city council meeting, and Morgan-Adams served as mayor pro tem at the Jan. 10 council meeting.

Dolick is the longest-tenured council member.

Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer gets a hug from his wife, Gail, as he celebrates his 2011 election victory. Daily Herald File Photo
  Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer Mark Welsh/, 2019
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