Orland Park Village Board votes to revert mayor to part-time role in 2021

By Jon DePaolis, Freelance Reporter

When the April 2021 election rolls around, prospective mayoral candidates for the Village of Orland Park will be campaigning for a part-time position.

The Orland Park Village Board voted 6-0 March 4 to repeal an ordinance from 2016 that expanded the role of the mayor to become a full-time position with an intended focus on economic development. The vote to repeal the full-time position also included the rollback of the annual salary from the current $150,000 back to the $40,000 it was prior to the April 2017 election.

Trustee Michael Carroll was absent.

The item, which was placed on the Mayor’s Report section of the agenda, was motioned by Trustee Patricia Gira and seconded by Trustee James Dodge. In spring 2018, the same motion was put on an agenda but failed to get off the floor.

Trustee Carole Griffin Ruzich said she first spoke to Mayor Keith Pekau about revisiting the full-time mayor position shortly after he was elected.

“We discussed when would be the appropriate time to consider rolling this back,” Ruzich said. “At that time, I think it was agreed that … we give this some time.”

As the mayor was the one to put the item back on the agenda for March 4, Ruzich said it was time.

“If you, having sat in that seat and are of the opinion there has been enough time that has passed and you’re in a position to say that this is the appropriate time [to repeal], I would be in favor of this ordinance,” she said to Pekau.

Pekau said, “I will just state the same thing I’ve said numerous times in the past: I think the position should go back to part-time, and that the salary should roll back, because we did not change the form of government that we have and that would be appropriate with a full-time mayor. My position hasn’t changed on that. Do I think it has benefitted from me being here full-time? Yeah, I think it’s benefitted with some of the stuff we’ve had, like the mall issues and things like that. But do I think it’s necessary? No.”

After the meeting, Pekau said he was happy the Village Board moved forward with the repeal.

“I ran on [repealing] it, so [if the board members] apparently want to bring it down like I wanted to, well, they helped me keep another campaign promise,” he said. “So, it’s a very satisfying night.”

Pekau said the timing seemed right to get this done now rather than after the April election.

“If they didn’t move it tonight, I would have put it on after the [election] cycle,” Pekau said. “Might as well put it on, if they are in the mood to pass something.”

Pekau said there are parts of the full-time position he has found to be beneficial since being elected.

“It’s been helpful from the sense that we had a lot of things happen on a retail basis, and on [Interstate] 80 there was nothing in place for all of it,” he said. “So, it’s allowed me to get that stuff in place. But I think, if in the future the mayor gets to select his team and it is not so combative, I don’t think it’s really necessary to be full-time.”

Gira said she did have any reservations about voting on it at this time because the mayor put it on the agenda.

“Why would I dispute it?” she said. “Clearly, in his report, it says that staffing is at the best level, and we don’t need to have this position. Our professional staff is doing what it needs to do. Why waste the time and funds?”

Dodge said he has issues regarding the full-time position as it stands.

“In my mind, the unintended consequence of the original ordinance was people thought it was a full-time mayor position under a different form of government, when in fact the ordinance was as specific as we could have made it that it was focused on economic development,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is just not the way it has worked out. In my mind, it was, ‘Let’s just clean this up.’ If a future board wants to go back down this pathway, they are certainly entitled to it.”