Mundelein mayor hopeful touts development
Mundelein Village Trustee Steve Lentz is the unofficial mayor-elect after narrowly defeating former police chief Wally Frasier and warding off a challenge from Trustee Robin Meier. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
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This is the first in three-part series profiling candidates running for mayor of Mundelein. Check out next week’s Mundelien Review for continuing coverage of the race.
Updated: February 15, 2013 9:52AM
Colleagues of one-term Trustee Steve Lentz said in May they were surprised when he announced his intentions to run – nearly a year before the election. Since then, he teamed up with long-time trustees Ray Semple and Jim Nutschnig to join the Pro Mundelein party.
Semple and Nutschnig are running to retain their seats, and the slate also includes newcomers Kerry Garesche, who is campaigning for Lentz’s seat, and village clerk hopeful Katy Timmerman.
“We need a mayor with a competitive state of mind to convince home buyers and businesses to come here,” Lentz said.
Lentz said other elected officials, who he would not name, asked him to consider running two years ago. As the mayoral election approached, he added, the plans for a redeveloping downtown made running irresistible.
“The more I worked on downtown decisions, the more I realized how this could change our community and I want to be here to see it progress appropriately,” Lentz said.
Current Mayor Kenneth Kessler is not seeking reelection. Lentz is vying for the seat against current Trustee Robin Meier and former longtime police chief and current park board Vice President Wally Frasier.
Shortly after moving to Mundelein in 1996, Lentz began working for Libertyville-based OptionVue as an instructor of stock market trading techniques. He is now the director of education and research.
Lentz grew up in California and was a real estate appraiser for 11 years, but left the industry after moving to Libertyville in 1994.
Politically, village trustee is the only elected office Lentz has held. He ran in 2009 after five years of coaching and board work for Mundelein Little League and nine years of coaching and board work for Mundelein Jr. Football League.
“I wanted to be a little more involved,” Lentz said. “It was a progression thing.”
Now with four years under his belt, Lentz is focusing on four topics in his campaign: redeveloping downtown, improving village streets, stimulating business growth, and fiscal responsibility.
Attracting developers to the five available lots surrounding the new village hall will be a challenge, Lentz said. If elected, he plans to create marketing strategies to make Mundelein’s land more visible.
Commerce outside downtown is also important, Lentz said, because a strong downtown provides for residents and feeds into the other business corridors.
“There are a lot of vacant storefronts all throughout Mundelein,” Lentz said. “We can’t control the national economy or what the state government does – good or bad – but we can control the experience someone has with us.”
The permit process is a main emphasis. Lentz said applicants’ information must be processed, reviewed and responded to faster.
Quality roads also remain key for Lentz, who ran on a platform for improving them in 2009. He said roadways support both the residential and business communities.
“It was a ‘be careful what you wish for’ situation because once I got in I realized that street work is expensive,” Lentz said. “If elected, I plan to increase the streets fund from $2 million to $3 million.”
Lentz said he recognized that delaying projects or not increasing funding could be easy, because residents wouldn’t notice right away. As trustee, Lentz said he helped end funding freezes and advocated for a $500,000 increase to the roads fund when he realized the village raised property taxes too much last year.
Accidents like that, Lentz added, cannot happen. He wants improved management of information and for village departments to become more cost-effective.
In addition, Lentz said Mundelein’s tax rate is not comparable to neighboring towns but he hopes to, in the long-term, build enough retail sales tax revenue to lower property taxes.~.