VERMILION — The city’s new mayor officially took office Saturday afternoon during a swearing-in ceremony at the Vermilion Boat Club.
Jim Forthofer, left, becomes Vermilion's mayor as he is sworn into office by Judge Zack Dolyk on Saturday at the Vermilion Boat Club.
SCOTT MAHONEY / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Jim Forthofer became the city’s first new mayor in eight years, replacing Eileen Bulan, who been a part of Vermilion’s city administration for 33 years. Forthofer said he “can’t wait to get airborne and start doing the things they elected me to do.”
He was elected in the Nov. 7 general election, defeating Fred Ostrander by getting 64 percent of the vote. Since winning the election, Forthofer has been trying to learn as much as he can from his predecessor.
“As much as I asked her to help, Eileen has helped,” Forthofer said. “The thing is, she’s got 30 years of experience in city government, and to her a lot of things are intuitive. I’m a little slower learner, so it’s going to take a while for the total transfusion to work.”
The new mayor said he doesn’t want to “overimpose” on Bulan’s goodwill, and wants to learn to do things on his own as mayor. On important issues, though, such as securing grant money for the city, he said he’ll certainly seek her help.
Prior to be electing mayor, Forthofer served as the city’s Ward 3 councilman. He also 35 years as a successful executive level manager, managing a national staff of 60 and was responsible for a multimillion-dollar budget in the publishing industry.
Now that he’s in office, Forthofer said, the first order of business will be to make sure city services run uninterrupted and to make sure the city remains in a “solvent state.” After that, he’ll move on to the things he ran his election campaign on.
“The message is that Vermilion needs a good injection of capitalism; they need more business,” Forthofer said. “That is what I was elected on, and no matter what happens over the next four years, that is going to remain at the top of my list of things to do.”
For Bulan, who was in attendance at the swearing-in ceremony, the day was bittersweet.
“I’ll miss it,” she said. “Some of the things I’ll really miss; some of the things I won’t. I’ll miss working on my vision for the city, like the development of McGarvey’s Landing. We also bought the museum property, and now we’re in the process of building a new building on that site. I like to write grants, believe it or not, so that’s something else I’ll miss.”
Bulan said she never planned on being mayor. She served as clerk of council, assistant to the mayor and service director in the city before her first retirement. She said she was then “talked into” running for mayor.
She said it’s time for her to move on, but she’s proud of what she accomplished during her time as mayor.
“I think I brought calm to the city,” she said. “When I first came in, it was kind of a chaotic situation. I think I worked well with City Council. I think that’s the only way to get anything accomplished, to work well with the Council. I think I moved the city forward and we did a lot of good things.”
“I will say without hesitation that Eileen is leaving Vermilion in a better condition than she found it,” he said. “I will also say Eileen is leaving me an awfully hard act to follow.”
Bulan said she believes Forthofer will “do a great job” as mayor.