By VERONICA JONES
Mike Kozel faces an uphill battle as he runs for Barrington village president in the April 9 election. As a write-in candidate whose name is not on the ballot, he has been going door to door each weekend, looking to gain enough support from voters to defeat Karen Darch, the incumbent president.
The father and longtime business owner has lived in the area for more than 30 years, and plans to bring some changes in Barrington’s business development, should he be elected.
How long have you lived in Barrington?
I first moved my business to Barrington in 1978, and then in 1980, as I began a family, the area appealed to me as a place to raise my children.
Describe your business, Carpenter On Call. Do you own other businesses as well?
Carpenter On Call is a building and remodeling company that repairs and rehabs commercial and residential spaces. Our specialty is fine woodworking and cabinetry.
I am also a partner in Angel Guardian LLC, a company that modifies properties, making them accessible for individuals with diminished capacities.
I find it very rewarding to help people with handicaps or age-related disabilities to stay in their home. Another business I am involved with is Isle Partners LLC. This is a company that owns, manages and leases residential properties.
What about politics interested you and why did you want to run for village president?
My father always volunteered when we were growing up; first as the local fire chief and then as the chairman of the area sanitary district. As a resident of Barrington, when I saw such a large amount of money and effort being put forth to stop the CN [rail] purchase, I realized I needed to get involved. I understood the concern yet realized that Illinois was built on the commerce from railroads.
Dollars spent on this effort were a waste of community resources. Additionally, as a longtime resident, I witnessed the atrophy of our downtown and the loss of many established businesses from Barrington.
Many of the homes on the west side of town along with residential properties fronting Hough Street were turned into offices.
These actions took residents and the life from the downtown. I knew I could foster a more favorable living and business climate.
What experience do you have that you feel makes you a good leader?
I have operated in private business for over 30 years and understand the challenges faced in organizations in terms of personnel and revenues. I have led a team on numerous large renovation projects from the cathedral at Barat College to big box retail stores.
My undergraduate degree is in business and finance and my graduate degree is an MBA. I was taught how to work in groups and bring the best ideas and outcomes to any project.
I understand that residents are the village’s customers and need to be properly treated and given the best services we can offer. I will lead by example, that means always being truthful and honest. I believe in the golden rule.
If elected, what will be on your priority list?
The first order of business will be to forge a contract between Barrington and Barrington Countryside fire departments.
Public safety is the number one responsibility of the Village Board.
I also want to get more residential developments in our Village Center.
The latest redevelopment at Hough Main seems to be faltering; we need to get a more market-sensitive project started at this site to close a big hole in the downtown. The best way to help our struggling business owners and bring prosperity back to the village of Barrington is to encourage private development downtown. Barrington needs to make its downtown areas more pedestrian-friendly as part of any redevelopment.
I would encourage more public space for people to congregate.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Barrington?
My favorite holiday is the fourth of July so I really enjoy the festivities in Barrington. We spend the morning preparing breakfast for about 30 family members.
After breakfast, we all go to the parade, where we usually have an entrant. We finish the day back at home with yard games then watch fireworks. It is always a great family day.
Another activity I love is to go to The Catlow theater, sit down with the big popcorn and watch the movie.
What makes Barrington different from other suburbs?
Barrington has the distinction of being a commuter suburb close to jobs and transportation, while at the same time is surrounded by numerous natural areas. The bounty of open space gives residents ample opportunity to enjoy wildlife in natural settings nearby.
As an avid bike enthusiast, I enjoy riding the many trails in the Deer Grove forest preserve. A quiet bag lunch can bring serenity to anyone watching the birds at Bakers Lake.
Those up for a short walk can take in the sights at the Cuba Marsh.
What are your hopes for the future of Barrington?
I want to see Barrington return to its founder’s original vision of being the center of commerce for the entire area.
A renewed focus on residential development will offer those looking to downsize a place to remain in the community as well as giving our grown children a place to start out in town. These initiatives will foster an increase in shops and restaurants as the business pie increases. A prosperous Barrington will benefit all residents.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
I was the sixth of nine children growing up near the Des Plaines River in Mount Prospect.
With that many kids, we learned to be self-sufficient early on.
I remember rolling newspapers for my sister’s route when I was in the first grade; it gave me a chance to earn a little extra money. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in all their children. Growing up this way is responsible for my entrepreneurial spirit and the reason I own small businesses.
These days, I enjoy staying fit through bike riding and frequent trips to the gym.
This summer, I plan on going rock climbing in Colorado with my two sons.