Meetings aren't everything, Palatine challengers say

  • Rita Mullins

    Rita Mullins Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Warren Kostka

    Warren Kostka Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Jim Schwantz

    Jim Schwantz Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Vito Manola

    Vito Manola Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Published: 3/6/2009 12:02 AM

Unlike one of her opponents, Jim Schwantz, Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins has never played in the NFL.

"But I've watched it on TV. I've even been to some games," Mullins said. "Does that make me a professional football player?"

The five-term mayor challenged her opponents during a Daily Herald editorial board interview to defend their attendance - or lack thereof - at village council meetings. Watching them on Palatine's Channel 6 isn't the same, she argued.

She's seen Schwantz at four meetings. Of the other two candidates for Palatine mayor, Vito Manola's been to one and Warren Kostka "just sits in the back and reads his newspaper," Mullins said.

It eats at her, she said, that people decide they can do a better job but don't put in the time or give back to the community.

That left the other candidates to tout their own civic resumes and reasons they'd be the most effective mayor.

Local business owner Manola responded that, for the last 15 years, he's taught a religion class to St. Theresa School eighth graders on Monday nights - when the council meets. He coached, volunteered at Lincoln Elementary School to involve northeast Palatine residents and is a youth basketball coordinator for the Palatine Park District.

"I've served on boards. Maybe they're not your boards," he said to Mullins.

Manola calls himself a team player with a strong ability to bring people together. He wants to improve communication and inclusiveness.

Kostka said he'd be a strong mayor because of his ability to empathize with councilmen, having served two terms himself from 1997 to 2005. He'd be a facilitator and give them more responsibility, such as business community liaison.

Schwantz, a sales manager for a Palatine moving company, said he's a unique candidate with a different skill set. He's never held political office, but coached and volunteers.

"I don't have the history and old fights and things that can be divisive," he said.

In turn, Mullins defended her own association with numerous organizations both in Palatine and elsewhere. Her spot on the executive board of the U.S. Conference of Mayors requires at most four annual trips, she said. In February, she went to Washington, D.C., with the group to urge legislators to send stimulus money to municipalities instead of the states. She's been criticized for her travel, though Kostka conceded they've tapered over the years.

This last trip she flew through Baltimore - the cheapest route.

"I had to take a bus. It's not very glamorous and it's not a lot of fun. I do it because it needs to be done," Mullins said. "If you're not at the table, you're forgotten about."

The other candidates said they'd travel only when absolutely necessary and would instead utilize resources like U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Reps. Mark Kirk and Melissa Bean. Mullins responded that she has access to their cell phones.

Mullins said she brings experience and professionalism to the job. She learned about ordinances and how village business is conducted during eight years as clerk and owned a small business for 12 years. And with no other job, she's got plenty of time.