Interview with Tinley Park Mayor Jacob Vandenberg
When I found out that Mayor Vandenberg will not be seeking reelection in 2021, I had to find out why. Instead I got an amazing interview with a man who truly cares about Tinley and his family.
As a commissioner on the Village of Tinley Park’s Marketing and Branding commission, I met Mayor Vandenberg on a few occassions, but at this sit down Zoom chat I really got to know him and I think it rings clear why he won back 3 years ago in 2017.
Zoom Video Interview
One of my favorite quotes from our Zoom chat was after I asked him about about the potential for a woman being mayor. “Honest to God I think my wife would be a fabulous mayor if you were to ask me.”
Tips for the next mayor:
- Have a schedule and stick to it.
- Weekly set aside one work day for mayor work only.
- Have 1 smartphone for you as a citizen and a 2nd one for you as mayor.
- Think regionally. Work with surrounding towns to bring up the Chicago Southland corridor.
The Mayor In His Own Words
Where did you grow up?
Tinley Park (down the street from old Lions pool).
Walk me through how you managed to balance overseeing operations of your main business and fulfill your duty as mayor to the village?
Before committing to running for mayor, I met with my employees and explained the responsibilities and time commitment. All supported the initiative. Upon being sworn in, I told myself that I would never mix the two and focused on dedicating at least one day a week to in person meetings. I also made sure that at least one hour per day was spent reading and responding to emails.
Did you take special courses to prepare for your role as mayor?
No special courses, just life lessons. A lot of being an elected official is to build relationships. Just being able to relate with people makes you prepared for the role.
What other training have you completed (i.e. college, trade school, etc.)?
I hold a Professional License in the state of Illinois as a Funeral Director and Embalmer, and soon a Certified Crematory operator. Besides general studies, I hold an associates degree in Applied Sciences of Mortuary Studies. I also attended local community college were I studied political science.
When did you first start to develop a passion politics and civic duty?
Sept. 2001, was my first real experience where I focused on national politics. Then again in 2009 when I was asked to run in a local township campaign. I never really cared for politics, still don’t.. specifically at a local level. I feel that there really isn’t room for agendas and such. Most of the job as an elected official, is just seeing to the quality of life and economics.
For a parent considering running for mayor, approximately how many hours per week is the commitment to the office of mayor?
Currently, as a part-time Mayor, I would say that the role is 24/7 365, actual physical time spent is between 10-15 hours per week, this fluctuates with the load of a schedule.
What does a typical day look like schedule wise as mayor.
Tuesdays, are the village day for me, so typically everyday starts with a quick check of the calendar, see if there are any events or meetings that need my attention, I then check email. Tuesdays would be the day for in person meetings at village hall. I, typically discuss via phone or in person with village staff various projects or issues. Then Tuesday evenings usually have a village board meeting, they can last from 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the agenda. There is a you tube video “A day in the life of a Mayor” starring me, if you want a more through explanation.
What advice would you give a mom who is considering running for a public office?
Never take anything personal !!! Today , more so than ever before, politics polarizes peoples opinions towards one another. Focus on the important things and make decisions that you believe in, not what others want you to do.
Would you say it is easier being mayor or being a parent?
Tough question…. I can’t truly answer that, My wife spends all day with the children, she bears the brute force of their energy. I would say that being mayor, means you are a “parent” to thousands. Ultimately, being a parent is more rewarding, in my opinion.
What or who are your influences?
The “greatest Generation”… they are my influences… They worked hard for every single thing in life. I try to live by that same motto. Work for the things that you need and earn the things you want. At the end of the day, those things are not the most important, but the legacy you leave behind in your family is unequivocally the most treasured.
What’s your favorite pastime?
Golf, and a new found hobby of camping with my family
What’s the driving force in your life?
Those that look to me every single day. My spouse, kids, family, work colleagues.
What get’s you the most excited each day?
New challenges, not everyday is the same for me, so I look forward to meting new people and finding solutions to new challenges. OF course, coming home to a happy joyful house full of love and laughter excites me daily as well.
What are some future plans you have for your business and your life?
In our industry, we are transforming the “traditional” way of celebrating someones life. Therefore I , like others, are trying to provide a medium for individuals to honor life via modern technology.
In today’s struggling economy, what advice would you give a parent who is considering public service?
Go into it with a wide open mind, and listen!!!! Never cast judgement prior to hearing the entire make-up.
What books, podcasts, articles, etc. do you read/listen to that influence the way you approach your business and life?
I follow all sorts of resources, however I’ve always felt that acting and learning from decisions was more helpful than listening or reading others successes or failures.
What would you say is your favorite place (restaurant or other kind of place) in Tinley and/or the Chicago Southwest Suburbs?
Super hard to answer one specific place. My wife and I were huge Tin Fish fans. We miss them. Being so occupied in life, we hardly have time to enjoy a lot of entertainment outside of the family events.
If you could go back in time, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self to be better prepared for the role of mayor?
As mayor, as an elected official, as a leader in general, you live in a fishbowl… people raise you up and place you at a higher standard. Don’t let it dictate your decisions—stay true to your convictions.
Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you would like people to know about you or being mayor?
I have no regrets, and encourage any and all people specifically women to be involved.