Thursday, October 1, 2015
Is McLaughlin eying fulltime job as Orland Park mayor?
The decision by District 135 President Joe La Margo to resign and take a fulltime $116,000-a-year position as the assistant village manager in Orland Park is not just about the local schools.
It could be the beginning of bigger changes to strengthen and consolidate government in Orland Park.
Several sources have told me they believe Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin will move from being a part-time mayor with an outside job to a full-time mayor focused on shepherding his long-term vision for the village.
Although Mayor McLaughlin did not respond to my inquiries, several sources said McLaughlin has told them and others he plans to make the move. How soon is unknown.
“He said he wants to focus all his energies on continuing the building of Orland Park and the best way to do that would be to become the fulltime mayor,” one Orland Park businessman told me.
Another source who said the mayor has discussed the move, said it would allow the mayor to personally direct the implementation and or completion of numerous programs and ideas now being implemented or are being considered for the village for the future.
“McLaughlin was made for this job and he should just do it,” another source said.
When I get a chance to interview him, I’ll see if he wants to open up or if he has made any decisions. But in the meantime, the tealeaves seem to be pretty clear about what choices stand before him.
To become a fulltime mayor, the village will have to change its charter. It is uncertain how the move will impact his current position as the influential Executive Director of the powerful Builders Association that he has held for just over two years.
Voters approved Orland as a Village Manager (Managerial) form of government in the Nov. 8, 1983 election, the same year McLaughlin was elected to the board of trustees. He was elected mayor in 1993.
Orland Park is a Village Manager community. In other words, policies are proposed by a part-time mayor, reviewed and approved by a part-time village board, and implemented by a Village Manager and his staff, including now the deputy Village Manager.
The current village manager is Paul Grimes, who has been in his position supervising the implementation of McLaughlin’s vision for the village for the past eight years. La Margo, who previously served as the village deputy clerk, began work as the deputy village manager in July, with Grimes. The two are close and would work together well.
I covered McLaughlin’s 1983 election and recognized then that he had great vision and talent as a community leader and activist. As mayor he has implemented a wide range of successful programs that have helped make Orland Park one of the best communities in the Chicagoland suburbs.
It hasn’t helped that Orland Park has the worst public relations of any major suburban Chicagoland community. I say “worse” not in terms of being plagued by negative stories, but rather by the absence of effective PR. Orland Park and McLaughlin have the positive stories. They just don’t get outside of a very narrow circle.
The truth is Orland Park is far better than Naperville, but Orland Park has never managed to position itself at the same light as Naperville, which is the darling of the Chicago media because of effective and constant PR Spin.
That poor PR has held both Orland Park and McLaughlin back from higher ambitions and recognition.
Orland Park has achieved far more than Naperville and McLaughlin is as good or even better than Naperville’s beloved former chief executive, Arthur George Pradel. McLaughlin has served as mayor longer than Pradel, and yet Pradel has always received more accolades.
McLaughlin made his mark as a village trustee when he directed the modernization of the Orland Park Police Department. He introduced the D.A.R.E. program to the district’s schools.
But his greatest achievements have been as Orland Park’s mayor.
McLaughlin is a respected member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Southwest Conference of Mayors, Illinois Municipal League and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers. And he currently serves on the Regional Water Supply Planning Group, recently serving as Chairman of a state-wide task force studying a Uniform State Building Code.
Under McLaughlin’s administration the village of Orland Park has made considerable improvements in recreational programs and facilities and community events.
Under his leadership, the Village has implemented creative solutions to road improvements to ease traffic congestion. The village is undergoing one of the largest road improvement programs involving the widening of La Grange Road, one of the most trafficked roads of any municipality in Northern Illinois.
He hasn’t given up on the Police Department and has improved public safety with a larger Police Department, new police station and increased training and technology.
McLaughlin also has developed a unique program to protect the region’s environment, directing a nationally recognized $25 million “Open Lands Program,” as well as implementing community arts and developing the village’s Green Initiative.
Orland Park’s numerous community improvement programs have won numerous awards, resulting in being named recently as one of America’s most livable cities by Money Magazine.
The conversion from part-time to full-time mayor does not necessarily mean that the village would eliminate the position of Village Manager, but it could mean that the position would be changed to chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.
But McLaughlin has probably given up on his personal ambition to seek higher statewide office, but he has not given up on Orland Park.
You can get more information on McLaughlin from his own website at www.mayordanmclaughlin.com or from the village website at www.OrlandPark.org.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. He is a columnist with the Palos Reporter, the Regional News, Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)