Current and former trustees, family and village administrators from around the suburbs visited Arlington Heights on Thursday afternoon to honor retiring Village Manager Bill Dixon.
Friday is Dixon's last day with the village after 21 years, but he was celebrated Thursday night with a party featuring proclamations from the Illinois House and Senate, speeches from friends and former co-workers, and singing by the Arlingtones, the local barbershop chorus.
Former Mayor Arlene Mulder spoke about the decision to hire Dixon in 1993.
"He was confident, he was experienced and he was actually from Illinois," she said. She remembered that it was between Dixon and another candidate that he had mentored at another job.
"We decided to go with the teacher, not the student," she said.
Mulder was mayor for nearly all of Dixon's tenure with Arlington Heights and she often credited him with helping her lead the village for two decades.
"He set the bar high and he expected everyone to meet and exceed it," Mulder said. She also noted his experience, integrity, sense of humor and honesty.
Former Trustee Tom Stengren echoed Mulder's thoughts.
"We did some great things together," Stengren said of his years on the board during the redevelopment of downtown Arlington Heights. "But without Bill's leadership and him guiding us, I don't think we could have achieved as much as we did."
"I'm very appreciative and grateful. I didn't expect all of this," Dixon said. He said Thursday was also a special day for him because it was his father's birthday.
"It's been a privilege to have served as village manager to this wonderful community."
Dixon thanked his wife and children for moving around the country several times during his 45-year career in municipal management, including stints in Colorado, Minnesota and downstate Carbondale.
"My wife deserves all the credit. If it was not for her adventurous spirit and organization, we would not have been in a position to advance to the point where Arlington Heights would even consider me," Dixon said.
Although Dixon, 67, is leaving village government, he said his family will continue to live in Arlington Heights and be a part of the community.
The search continues for the new village manager, whom Mayor Tom Hayes is hoping to have in place by Labor Day. Meanwhile, Assistant Village Manager Diana Mikula has been named the interim village manager, effective Saturday.