Citing unspecified health issues, Prospect Heights Mayor Rodney Pace unexpectedly resigned Friday, ending his five years in office.
"I'm all right. I'm having a little problem," Pace, 49, said cryptically. "I just don't need the added stress right now that mayorship brings."
Voters elected the 49-year-old Pace to his second term in April, when he defeated Kurt Giehler and longtime foil Gerald Anderson. Health problems aren't new for Pace, as he made an extended six-week hospital visit during his second year in office. He was first elected in 2003.
Pace would not reveal what ailed him, saying only that symptoms had begun "flaring up" recently. He said he made the decision to leave after a doctor's appointment last week.
Pace wrote a letter to residents and the council announcing his departure. He said he's most proud of street improvements and increasing the city's contribution to the ailing police pension fund. He said he was saddened his health problems wouldn't allow him to devote "110 percent" to his post.
Pace, a construction executive with the Maman Corp. of Palatine, said he did not think his ailment would force him to miss work from his full-time job.
Prospect Heights in the interim is without a mayor. The city council will hold a special meeting Thursday where the council could elect an alderman to fill out the remaining 18 months of Pace's term.
While Pace said he wouldn't endorse any of the five, he did say Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen would be the most qualified.
Ludvigsen, the council's senior alderman, served as a Prospect Heights Park District commissioner with Pace. The two remain good friends, with Ludvigsen saying Pace was the "hardest-working person for Prospect Heights."
"I would definitely say that I would be interested in the position," Ludvigsen said.
Politics and name-calling in Prospect Heights make the mayor a lightning rod for criticism, Ludvigsen said. Pace's temper, which he has acknowledged was occasionally problematic, was put to the test by a vocal opposition.
One of the leaders of the opposition who tested that temper was Anderson -- a former alderman who briefly served as mayor. He had little to say Friday about the man who twice defeated him for mayor, saying only that he was "amused" by the resignation.
"He was elected in April, correct? Right now we're in September?" Anderson said. "He barely got started in the new term, then all of a sudden for a number of reasons he decided to bail out? It's very amusing from the standpoint why somebody would do that."
Former Wheeling Village President Greg Klatecki, who resigned his post in April, said political pressure may have gotten to Pace. The two worked together, as their towns border each other, and the towns co-own Chicago Executive Airport.
"It was like me. When you're under a lot of pressure, it's hard to function," Klatecki said. "And we're not talking about a job where you make a lot of money."
Klatecki said Pace was not like most suburban politicians. He wanted to do what he thought was the right thing and didn't really care what people thought of him, Klatecki said.
"There was no pretense with Rodney," Klatecki said. "He didn't change after he got the title."
Mount Prospect Mayor Irvana Wilks was shocked by the news.
"The last time I saw him, he was out doing the sandbagging for the big storm and the river coming up. … He loves his residents so much," Wilks said. "… I give him a lot of credit for all the different things that have happened in Prospect Heights. He's been, I think, a good leader for them in the last few years."
Pace said he's survived council meetings that often turned ugly and had to deal with the 2006 arson that burned down city hall.
He's watched voters reject multiple tax rate increase requests in his cash-strapped city, which he said had made governing difficult. In his resignation letter, he expressed frustration that he hadn't been able to persuade voters to support initiatives to improve the city.
He said he'll be all right. "A couple prayers from anybody will help; I'll take anything I can get. I know the power of prayer works wonders."