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Ex-Arlington Heights administrator Bonder mourned
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff

Ken Bonder

 

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Published: 3/27/2009 12:00 AM

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Ken Bonder was best known as the man who helped turn Arlington Heights' downtown and the racetrack into economic engines.

Bonder, 65, who lived most of his life in Arlington Heights, died Wednesday at Northwest Community Hospital after an eight-year battle with cancer.

Bonder first joined the village of Arlington Heights in 1969 as the youngest finance director in Illinois. In 1984, he took over as village manager, a position he held until 1992. He served 40 years in government services.

"That was one of his things that he loved to do ... shape a community for future generations to enjoy," said Bonder's son, Kraig Bonder of Indian Creek. "He loved taking on projects throughout the city."

Longtime friend and current Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder said Bonder served the village in a variety of roles beyond his job description.

"Ken loved this town," Mulder said. "And that, I think, took precedence in his mind. If there was any way he could help, it didn't matter in what capacity."

In the 1980s, Bonder got involved in planning downtown development, and later as manager continued work to revitalize the village.

At the time, Bonder and other village officials brought information about the then-new concept of Tax Increment Financing from Highland Park, where it was being tested, back to leaders in Arlington Heights.

Under Bonder's leadership, the village set up two TIF districts - covering downtown and the north end of downtown - building parking garages and sprucing up downtown streets with new benches, walkways and lighting.

"He had his fingerprints all over so many of the successful things that have happened in this community," Mulder said. "We owe him a great deal of credit. Without him, we wouldn't have the Arlington Heights we have today. He is such a loss."

Mulder first worked with Bonder in the 1980s when she was on the park district board and they were working on Lake Arlington, North School Park, and village flood control projects.

When Mulder was elected to the village board in 1991, Bonder, as village manager, showed her the ropes.

Bonder and his wife, Dorice, were also involved in numerous civic groups in town. As a past board member of the Arlington Heights Historical Society, Bonder helped plan Arlington Eve - the village's New Year millennial celebration.

After leaving Arlington Heights in 1992, Bonder was the Prospect Heights manager for a number of years and also consulted for Palatine as its chief financial officer.

He worked on redevelopment projects in downtown Palatine, and helped create a TIF district there. Bonder also did consulting work for the village of Wheeling.

Bonder was a role model for many people, said Greg Koeppen, former Prospect Heights alderman and executive director of the Lake County Farm Bureau.

"He was probably one of the most amazing individuals that I have had an opportunity to work with," Koeppen said. "He truly helped shape the Northwest suburbs as we know them today. Ken allowed us to grow Prospect Heights to that next level. He brought professionalism to the job."

Koeppen joined the Prospect Heights City Council in 1995 at age 19 and came to view Bonder as a mentor.

"I was a youngster back then and that's why Ken played such an instrumental part in my career," he said. "He truly was a wealth of knowledge and had an ability to work well with individuals no matter what their political background or what their views were."

Bonder was an avid golfer and participated in the Arlington Heights Municipal Golf League. He was a member of St. Raymond Catholic Parish in Mount Prospect.

He is survived by his wife, Dorice, son Kraig Bonder of Indian Creek, daughter Kendryn McDonough of Morgantown, W.V.

Visitation for Bonder will be 3-8 p.m. Sunday, March 29 at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, and again at 9 a.m. Monday, March 30 at St. Raymond Catholic Church, 301 S. Loka, Mount Prospect. A Mass will follow at 10 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Raymond Church or St. Viator High School Foundation, Office of Development, 1213 E. Oakton St., Arlington Heights, IL 60004.