For the first half of the night, a standing-room-only crowd of St. Charles residents watched three emotional farewells and applauded history. For the second half, the audience watched a new team of officials urged by its new leader to solve issues through open and respectful communication, and they applauded the future.
The weight of goodbye hit outgoing Mayor Don DeWitte shortly after he began his parting words. With emotion-laden vocal chords, DeWitte thanked his family, the city council, staff members and residents for believing in him through 20 total years in office.
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"This is a tough job," DeWitte said. "We make a lot of friends, and we make a lot of enemies. Everything that we've accomplished, we couldn't have done it without each other."
DeWitte pledged to be an active member of the community even out of office.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said.
And with that, and a handshake and a pat on the shoulder, he passed the gavel to his successor, Ray Rogina.
Rogina, who still works as a teacher, told an audience representing the larger community that they will be his biggest classroom yet.
"And the learning curve will grow accordingly," Rogina said.
That curve, he said, should be paved with open communication and thoughtful debate.
"We should talk to each other without hesitation or reservation," Rogina said. "In the end, we become part of an unbroken chain of the ageless passage of wisdom from one generation to another."
Rogina said he expects his tenure to be a time of resurgence for the city as it follows the economy out of the recession.
"St. Charles stands tall," Rogina said. "St. Charles always will be reinventing itself. St. Charles is the pride of the Fox. And we all recognize there is work to do."
Rogina issued three proclamations for his first agenda as mayor. They recognized the valuable work done by the city's police, emergency medical personnel and the convention and visitors' bureau. He closed his first meeting by calling for more applications for the now-open seat in the 3rd Ward that he vacated upon becoming mayor. The deadline to apply is May 17.
Rogina also asked residents to not only be patient with the ongoing construction on Main Street but to also make a special effort to patronize the businesses along the construction route.
New Aldermen Ron Silkaitis and Art Lemke also took their seats on the council. Lemke faces a recount this Thursday before his seat in the 2nd Ward is secured. Lemke defeated incumbent Alderman Cliff Carrignan by only five votes after the certified tally.