VP mayor appointment startles those who wanted a different outcome
By Tina Richards
Robbie Pitts stunned the newly sworn-in Villa Park City Council and the audience that packed the chambers, Dec. 4, by nominating colleague Vince Rossini for mayor.
The first order of business at the inaugural meeting of the new council was electing a mayor and mayor pro tem. Rossini, as mayor pro tem, was considered the next in line for mayor, but a majority of those attending the meeting had other ideas. Residents, they said, preferred Robbie Pitts.
A number of public speakers spoke on Pitts' behalf, calling him a peacemaker, in tune with the views of the city, a prolific volunteer and a leader who does his homework. Resident Greg Mills read a letter supporting Pitts that was endorsed by 150 citizens. Ed Carter read the names of all of them aloud.
Rossini also had supporters, mostly individuals associated with LEAC (Law Enforcement Advisory Committee), who praised his efforts to keep the city safe. Advocates for Rossini also stressed that his service as mayor pro tem positioned him to take on mayoral duties, and that protocol dictated his selection. “You don’t want to start out with a controversy over the mayor,” former councilman, now citizen, Bill Nelson advised.
While previous Villa Park councils have, indeed, moved mayor pro tems into the top slot, it is not a requirement, nor an obligation. There have been several mayor pro tems overlooked in the past.
New councilmembers Crystal Miles and Chad Zimmerman, who both ran on platforms to end divisiveness and bloc voting on the council, questioned both candidates about their qualifications and the reasons they wanted to be mayor.
“I’ve been in the city for 20 years,” Pitts said. “I understand the needs of the city. I studied a lot, and was prepared for council discussions.” He also recognized that residents wanted a less argumentative and more cohesive council. “Changes need to be made,” he said. “It takes time to make changes, and I want to start now. That doesn’t mean,” he emphasized, “that the council always has to agree.”
Rossini explained that he wanted “to continue what he started” and that he had demonstrated what it means to be mayor. “I listen,” he said. “Robbie and I get along great. I’ll be humble and respectful.”
Bob Collacott, reelected to the council for another four-year term, noted that: “The battles we’re fighting should not be amongst ourselves. We should be fighting outside sources.” He advocated sticking to tradition and electing the mayor pro tem.
City Manager Steve Franks advised the council that it could nominate any of the five members to be mayor, even newcomers Miles or Zimmerman. He carefully went over the mandated selection process, stressing that any council member could nominate another and a vote taken on that candidate. Nominations would continue until someone had three votes.
Shock and awe
A split second after Franks finished his review of the process, Pitts, who clearly wanted the job, leaned into the microphone. “I would like to nominate Vince Rossini,” he said quietly. His words hung in the air for a very long moment. No one, not his fellow council members, his supporters, or Rossini’s reacted, other than to stare in disbelief.
“That’s true leadership,” Chad Zimmerman assessed, as Rossini jumped to his feet to shake Pitt’s hand.
“It was a means to create harmony on the council,” Pitts said later of his decision. “A way to establish some unity.”
The council voted 5-0 to elect Rossini as mayor. Pitts was elected mayor pro tem, also by unanimous vote. The mayor of Villa Park serves a term of one year.