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updated: 1/27/2014 11:33 PM

Vernon Hills' longest-serving manager to retire

Vernon Hills' manager gets ready for retirement

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  • Mike Allison

      Mike Allison

  • Vernon Hills Village Manager Mike Allison is retiring Friday after 15 years in that job.

       Vernon Hills Village Manager Mike Allison is retiring Friday after 15 years in that job.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


As the work days dwindle and his responsibilities have been shifted, Mike Allison's office at the Vernon Hills village hall is noticeably less full, a condition that's making it even harder to say goodbye.

For a guy who values a full to-do list every morning, not having to be there admittedly will be odd for the longest-serving village manager in the community's 55-year history.

"It's weird. I'm apprehensive," Allison said last week while contemplating the end of his 15-year tenure Jan. 31. "If you've had some goals and ideas in mind and now that you're cut loose, so to speak, it's intimidating but exciting."

The departure will end 38 years in local government for the personable and often humorous Milwaukee native, who began his career as an administrative assistant in Hanover Park. Allison was village manager in Bensenville when he learned of an opening in Vernon Hills.

He also had heard about the planning that went into the high-end Gregg's Landing development, so he and his wife, Madelyn, took a drive and were impressed after visiting the neighborhoods and shopping areas in town.

"It all sounded very interesting and I was ready for a change," he said.

Longtime village Trustee Thom Koch was on the board that hired Allison.

"During the interview process, it was real clear you were the right candidate," Koch said recently during Allison's last board meeting. "You're so easy to work with."

Allison followed through on the vision of village officials and predecessor Larry Laschen, who as manager from 1985 to 1998 (and police chief for the 11 years before that) oversaw a residential and commercial building boom.

Significant examples include the development of the former Nike missile base into the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex, and building out Gregg's Landing.

"It's been very dynamic," Allison said. "That's been very satisfying to see those things completed."

The highlights of Allison's tenure also include: the long-sought, ongoing renovation/expansion of Westfield Hawthorn mall; construction of a new village hall and a police communications facility; and, evolution of Summer Celebration.

But there also have been challenges, notably the impact of the Great Recession on businesses and a community that does not levy a property tax.

"They (village officials) took a stance on sales tax rebates years ago, but in '08 they saw there was a need to be flexible," Allison said. Several rebate packages helped fill empty big boxes and lured newcomers, such as Mariano's, even during the depth of the recession.

Allison and his staff also fashioned a "homemade" retirement incentive during which the number of full-time staff dropped from 128 to 98 without the need for furloughs or layoffs. He said one of his proudest moments was how the remaining staffers stepped up to assume more responsibility.

During the past few weeks, Allison has enjoyed a stream of accolades, testimonials, an official proclamation and a reception at village hall -- where he worked the crowd in a Hawaiian shirt.

He's not sure what's next but will travel and take time to decompress.

"One thing I know I will miss are all the wonderful people," he said. "Whether residents, business owners, elected officials or a tremendous staff, I will miss the day-to-day working together for the community."

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