Monday night was a special one for retiring Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski.
It began with a reception attended by several of Balinski's contemporaries, as well as some familiar faces from the past. Then, Village President Jeffrey Braiman opened the evening's village board meeting with a joke at his expense.
"Half of the department is here to make sure you're retiring, is that correct?" he asked.
He then paid tribute to Balinski, whose career as an officer and chief lasted more than 36 years.
"We're fortunate here in Buffalo Grove that we have an outstanding police department, and one of those reasons is the efforts of Steve Balinski," Braiman said.
After receiving a prolonged standing ovation, Balinski stepped up to the podium and spoke in a voice that at one point broke with emotion. He remembered getting a phone call 36 years ago from former Chief Harry Walsh.
"I was working at Western Illinois," he said. "I don't want to tell you where I was working at, because I probably wouldn't be the chief. But he offered me the position, and I thought it was a prank. I thought it was one of my fraternity brothers and I hung up the phone."
Walsh called back and in a stern voice offered the job again.
"So that was the second most important decision that I made in my life," Balinski said.
The most important decision, he said, starting to tear up, was marrying his wife, Karen.