Mundelein approves new police chief
Mundelein Deputy Police Chief Eric Guenther has been named the new chief, effective February 1st. Photographed in Mundelein on Monday, January 21, 2013. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 10:20PM
MUNDELEIN – The new chief of police is one of Mundelein’s own, in a sense.
Of the 33 applications Mundelein reviewed, Deputy Chief Eric Guenther surfaced as the best candidate, and the Mundelein Village Board concurred by approving his appointment 5-1 on Monday.
“For all the conspiracy theorists who may believe this was a done deal and other candidates did not have a fair shot, I’d be happy to provide anyone a copy of my Jan. 8, 2013, memo that outlines the process by which we went through,” Village President Kenneth Kessler told the board before voting. “My marching orders to the ad-hoc committee were to produce the best candidate, and they did.”
Because it was his appointment to make, Kessler led the committee and was followed by current Chief Ray Rose, Village Administrator John Lobaito, Trustee Ray Semple, a human resources representative and an outside consultant.
Selecting Guenther for board approval was a unanimous decision by the ad-hoc committee.
Guenther joined the Mundelein Police Department in 1995, became a sergeant in 2001, was promoted to commander in 2003 and later named deputy chief in 2009. On Feb. 1, he becomes chief of police.
While still a commander, Guenther was instrumental in helping Rose create a pilot program that enhances law enforcement’s response to victims.
“We were more focused on getting the bad guy than helping the victims of those crimes,” Guenther said. “We wanted to serve those victims’ needs and keep them informed.”
Officers started carrying handouts to give victims upon first contact. The pamphlets include contact information for every possible resource available to local residents.
The program also improved follow-up procedures, allowing victims opportunities to ask for more help while also giving officers a chance to learn of any new developments.
“Even if no progress is made, it’s good to let victims know we’re still trying and that we care,” Guenther said.
The program is still active, and has been studied by a number of police agencies, including the International Association for Police Chiefs.
Technology and efficiency will be big topics for Guenther moving forward. He plans to make the department more efficient, as is, and then review what new technology can make operations even more efficient.
Rose, who has been chief for more than 20 years, gave his blessing to Guenther.
“I think the mayor and Village Board have made the right decision,” Rose said. “Eric knows the importance of partnering with the community and participating in groups and activities, such as the Lake County and Mundelein After School Coalitions, StandUp, Lake County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force and community events.”
Rose praised Guenther for being able to intuitively know when a small issue can turn into a larger problem, and then making appropriate adjustments.
“He’s also been able to continue his education in tandem with gaining on-the-job experience: a bachelor’s degree, Northwestern University Staff and Command, FBI Academy, and Senior Management Institute at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government,” Rose said. “This makes him well-rounded and the perfect choice to continue leading the department and partnering with the community.”
Rose said Guenther’s best qualities include the ability to lead by example, be open-minded and personable – several of those Guenther credits Rose for instilling.
“I’ve certainly gained a lot of experience through Chief Rose,” Guenther said. “He has over 45 years of experience and my four years as deputy chief under him really count for eight years anywhere else.”
There was one opposition to Guenther’s appointment. Trustee Terri Voss expressed a desire to have all department heads live in Mundelein, but conceded no such rule exists.
Voss said she asked Guenther “what if residency was a requirement?” and he allegedly said he would not have applied for the job. The response bothered Voss enough to vote “no” even though she found him to be qualified.
Guenther confirmed the notion, saying “the circumstances are not right to move my family at this time.”
When his grandfather died, Guenther was given an empty plot of land in downtown Grayslake. Guenther built a house on that land and currently resides there with his wife Melanie and their three children.
The property had been in his family for more than 50 years, and Guenther was overwhelmed with pride when he was offered ownership.