This week Roger Claar is retiring after 31 years as mayor of the Chicago urban-sprawl suburb Bolingbrook, Ill.
Thirteen years ago I wrote “Bolingbrook—C’est Moi!,” a Chicago Magazine profile of Claar that contained this account of our first interview:
Roger Claar has been crying, on and off. The 61-year-old Republican has spent most of a day and part of an evening telling a reporter his life story: His largely unhappy childhood in Effingham, growing up “a shy, chubby kid in a crewcut with hand-me-down clothes” in what he describes as a “dysfunctional” family with four kids and a mother who “didn’t support” him. His journey to Kansas State University in 1971 to get a Ph.D. (“For a fat little kid from Effingham, that was a bold move,” he says.) His early career as a school administrator, which led him to take a job near Bolingbrook. His rise from village trustee to mayor, first elected in 1986. His side of the scandals that have dogged him along the way. His political relationships with Republican governors Jim Edgar and George Ryan, which led to a seat on the board of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, where he helped make Bolingbrook the thriving suburban crossroads it is today. And his secrets for bringing in the commerce and housing development that put Bolingbrook on the map.
Almost all these subjects make him emotional.
Claar angrily likens Bolingbrook’s onetime status as a poor relation to neighboring Naperville to his own plight as a child at the family dinner table, when he was the last of the four kids to get the fried chicken. “I’d get a back. I’d get crumbs.”
Claar, a big Trump supporter who hosted Candidate Trump in Bolingbrook for a 2016 fundraiser at some political cost to himself, resembles Trump in some psychological ways, and I got in there pretty deep—or so it seems to me, on rereading my piece for the first time since Trump was elected.
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