New Midlothian mayor out to ‘make a difference’
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com April 28, 2013 9:55PM
Sharon Rybak, newly-elected village president of Midlothian, speaks at her home Friday, April 12, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:12PM
Sharon Rybak is no stranger to Midlothian.
Born and raised in this town, she walked to and from Bremen High School, where she now is a member of the school board. Rybak also is finance director for the Midlothian Park District, where she serves lunches to seniors. As the mother of four children — now all adults — she’s done her share of volunteering for Scout troops and athletic organizations.
“I love this place,” she said of Midlothian.
As of May 8, she will be its new mayor, after unseating one-term Mayor Terry Stephens in the April 9 election. Serving with her will be park board President Michael Kohlstedt as village clerk, after he unseated incumbent James Potempa. All three incumbent trustees who were running — Gary L’Heureux, Jerome Gillis and Karen Kreis — won re-election.
The new mayor will continue to serve the monthly senior lunches and plans to retain her seat on the school board. She hit the ground running, contacting board members and department heads and looking over the books.
“Terry and I were running against each other, but he graciously shook my hand and is willing to help me out. He’s a friend and neither one of us is leaving town,” Rybak said.
She admitted she didn’t think she had a chance to beat Stephens — a Bremen High School math teacher — but jumped into the race “to give people a choice” when she realized he may be running unopposed.
Residents were feeling “out of the loop,” she said. “People thought he wasn’t listening to them.”
Rybak also attended the village’s finance meetings and didn’t like what she was hearing. During Stephens’ term, the village issued $10.3 million in bonds, she said.
“People are worried about businesses closing and the affect that will have on their taxes,” she said. “We have to live within our means.”
She looked out her window on Ridgeway Avenue and pointed out several vacant houses on her block alone — another concern she faces.
Rybak does not foresee any cuts in staff but said there are “lots of little things” that can be looked at to save money. She believes her “financial expertise” with the park district will serve her well in the mayor’s office.
Rybak is not afraid of hard work and said she will do her homework on the issues facing the village, such as economic development and Lake Michigan water. Midlothian has joined with other suburbs to see if they can become their own water agency.
“We have very intelligent people on the board (of trustees) — each with their own area of expertise. I hope everyone will give me a chance. Let’s work together,” she said.
“I want to get Midlothian back on the map. I want to make sure young families can raise their kids here,” she said.
Rybak wants to get more people involved in volunteering in town and hopes to reach out to them and keep them informed by improving the village’s website. She also would like to reopen the village hall on Saturday mornings.
“There are a lot of good people in this town. I’m looking forward to working with them. They know what they want. They need to be heard,” she said.
When her four children were growing up, the Rybak house was the “Kool-Aid house,” she said, the place where all their friends congregated and felt welcome.
“I’ll be the Kool-Aid mom for the village,” she said. “I embrace the challenges. I think I can make a difference. I have four years to show people what I can do.”