Sycamore lost one of its most dedicated public servants on Tuesday with the passing of former Mayor Ken Mundy at age 73.
Mundy loved Sycamore, and showed that love in part through decades of service. His work for the people of Sycamore began in 1972, when former Mayor Harold “Red” Johnson – whom Mundy counted as a mentor – appointed him Sycamore Public Library treasurer.
Mundy’s parents brought him to Sycamore as an infant in 1948, and aside from a four-year stint in the Navy during the Vietnam War, he remained in the community most of the rest of his life.
Mundy was an elected official in Sycamore for 36 years, from when he was first elected treasurer in 1981 until 2017, when he stepped down after three terms as the city’s mayor.
As mayor, Mundy was among the city’s biggest boosters. He believed that “access, communication and service” were the three pillars of local government, and called being mayor “a labor of love.”
He also was a lover of history, who was instrumental in helping turn a donated collection of taxidermied animals and a run-down former community center building on State Street into the Midwest Museum of Natural History in the early 2000s. His work at transcribing highlights of Sycamore City Council meetings from the 1800s to the 2010s is catalogued on the city's website.
Under Mundy’s watch, Sycamore grew and developed a reputation for being business-friendly. Existing businesses found it easy to expand their operations rather than find new sites, and new businesses were drawn to the community, too.
With his strong financial background – Mundy began his career in banking and was a longtime payroll supervisor at Northern Illinois University until his retirement in 2005 – city government became known for its ability to stretch a dollar.
It wasn’t always rosy, but during hard times, Mundy had words of encouragement for citizens.
“If we remain mentally, spiritually and physically tough and resilient, folks here will weather the challenges we face, work through them, and realize the importance of faith, family and friends as we continue ‘where life offers more,’ “ Mundy wrote in a 2010 column for the Daily Chronicle.
Sycamore would not be what it is without Mundy’s years of service. There is little glamor in being a small-town mayor, but it requires the right sort of person if a community is to thrive. Mundy was such a person.
In downtown Sycamore, there is a stone memorial and plaque honoring Johnson’s 42 years of public service, and a statue for Pumpkin Festival founder Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow. A public memorial to Mundy for his 36 years of service would be entirely appropriate alongside them.