Villa Park council names new mayor, mayor pro tem

By Tina Richards

The Villa Park City Council wound up its Dec. 19 meeting and finished its 2017 activities by electing Bob Collacott to serve as mayor, and Vince Rossini as mayor pro tem for the coming year. 

The outcome was expected, as Collacott was finishing a term as mayor pro tem and had the support of the council majority.  Before nominations for the two top slots were heard, Diana Fascenelli reminded her colleagues that being mayor was an “earned” position, and was not simply a matter of “who’s in line.”

Rossini nominated Collacott, and Robbie Pitts nominated Rossini.  A three-two vote put Collacott in the position. Rossini was nominated for mayor pro tem, and was approved by a four-to-one vote.

Think again
After Mayor Bill Nelson stepped down, he asked if the council could reconsider its earlier approval of the meeting schedule for 2018.  The schedule had been debated because the September meeting was penciled in for the 18th, the third Tuesday of that month.  Villa Park Council meetings are generally held the fourth Tuesday of each month, but September’s meeting has, in recent years, been moved ahead a week so Nelson and Collacott can attend a Special District Association conference. Pitts objected to moving the meeting to the 18th because he didn’t think two council members’ desires to attend another meeting justified changing the Villa Park schedule.  Sept. 18, he said, is also his birthday.

Diana Fascenelli agreed that the September meeting should not be moved, noting that the Special District Association had nothing to do with the business of Villa Park.  “If you want to go to a meeting of another organization, you can miss this one,” she told Nelson, “you can make a choice.”

Nelson noted that both he and Collacott served on the boards of two special districts, and that the conference did have something to do with Villa Park.  Fascenelli countered that the special district “association” was a separate body that had no relevance to the city of Villa Park, and that attendance was voluntary.

A different day
Vince Rossini suggested scheduling the meeting for Sept. 19, a Wednesday, allowing Pitts to have his birthday off and giving Nelson and Collacott room to attend the conference.  That alternative was approved by a three (Nelson, Collacott, Rossini) to two (Pitts, Fascenelli) vote.

An hour later, Nelson was asking the council to reconsider that vote, saying he wanted to move the meeting back to the 18th. The council had moved the meeting to the 19th to satisfy Pitts, he explained, but Pitts had voted against it.  So, he reasoned, they might as well move it back. Collacott seconded the motion, but it failed.  Vince Rossini voted with Fascenelli and Pitts to reject the last-minute reshuffle.  “Let’s keep everything the way it is,” the new mayor pro tem said.

Prior to the election of new city leadership and before the first meeting schedule discussion, the council was slated to approve Villa Park’s revised and updated Strategic Plan. The plan was originally championed by Bill Nelson and supported by Collacott and Rossini.  They overruled Fascenelli and Pitts, who called its $14,000-$15,000 price tag a waste of money, and hired a consultant to facilitate the planning process.

Over the past six months, the consultant met with council members, city staff and a handful of residents, sent out survey forms and tabulated the results.  Participating council members drafted a “vision statement,” a list of priorities (quality of life, public safety, infrastructure, heritage, traffic control, financial stability, community activities and responsible city government), and measures to assess success.

Residents were invited to provide input, but few did. Five people responded via email, and six attended a public workshop. A special public meeting called on Nov. 30 to review the entire document attracted just two citizens – one of them Robbie Pitt’s wife, Elizabeth Ussher.

During the Dec. 19 meeting, resident and former mayor Jim Reichert told the council one more time that he didn’t appreciate the expense.  “We’re a small city with limited resources,” he said.  “You spent $15,000, and you didn’t learn anything you didn’t already know.  I’m concerned about spending money this way.”

The Strategic Plan was approved, 3-2, with Robbie Pitts and Diana Fascenelli voting against it, as they had done since the idea was introduced.  “I voted ‘no’ on the strategic plan,” Pitts said later, “because I’ve said ‘no’ since day one.  This $15,000 plan is very similar to the one written by staff several years ago at no cost to the city.”

The Strategic Plan is available for review on the city’s website.