Former Bear to be mayor of Palatine

Several suburban mayors ousted
April 8, 2009 Former Chicago Bears player Jim Schwantz defeated incumbent Rita Mullins in Tuesday's election.

The same mantra of change that Barack Obama rode all the way to the White House is what did her in.

So says five-term Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins, who was the face of palatine for so long. She's been sacked by a political newcomer who has a Super Bowl ring but has never held office.

It's in with the new -- former Chicago Bear Jim Schwantz.

"I'm about being part of a team and I look forward to stepping into that role," said Jim Schwantz, Palatine mayor-elect.

And out with the old -- 20-year incumbent Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins.

"It's the climate of change and so younger means better, maybe," said Mullins.

The day after her stunning loss, Mullins came in not second place but third, she wanted to talk to us in front of Palatine's new train station, which she says she helped design. And she proudly points to the reconstruction of downtown Palatine as her lasting legacy.

"It'll be here I hope for at least 100 years more, so I'm very proud of it, yes," said Mullins.

But a closer look shows many storefronts are vacant, and hundreds of new condos unoccupied.

Suzanne and Patrick Reardon opened Gumbo a-go-go Restaurant in one of these buildings and say they were sold a bill of goods Mayor Mullins couldn't deliver.

"He's a lovely guy and she was in for a long time and people weren't seeing much of a change," said Suzanne Reardon, small business owner.

So change is coming to Palatine and Jim Schwantz says he's ready to deliver.

Even though he's never held political office, he did help the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl and says teamwork -- on the field or at Village Hall -- is his strong point.

"When I played in the Super Bowl, didn't make any sacks...felt just as strong as Troy Aikman or Emmit Smith," said Schwantz.

"It was about the fist pumps and hi-fives and let's play with the team and playing football," said Mullins.

Mullins says up next for her is a vacation in Branson, Missouri. She hopes to be back in politics soon, working perhaps on the county level. She was an advocate for palatine seceding from Cook County because of high taxes.

Schwantz is a native of Palatine and a moving company executive. He admits he has a lot to learn now.

But first, he says he, too, needs to get some rest after a very long campaign.

In the city of Des Plaines, first-term Alderman Martin Moylan defeated three challengers for the position of mayor.

And in south suburban Dolton, it appears Ronnie Lewis was elected to his first full term in office. Lewis had been acting mayor and was the late mayor William Shaw's hand-picked successor.

In northwest suburban Bensenville, attorney Frank Soto was elected mayor. He defeated incumbent John Geils, who had waged a long fight against the expansion of O'Hare Airport. Soto beat Geils by a two-to-one margin.

In north suburban Waukegan, Democratic mayor Richard Hyde lost to independent Robert Sabonjian Jr. by nearly 10 percentage points. He is the son of former Waukegan mayor Robert Sabonjian Sr.

In Carpentersville, village president Bill Sarto clashed with board members several times. He finished last in a three-person field, losing to trustee Ed Ritter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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