Veteran Vernon Hills staffer to be appointed village manager

After 15 years with Village Manager Mike Allison at the helm, Vernon Hills is poised for a change at the top.

But elected officials say they didn't need to look far for a replacement. John Kalmar, who has been with the village 14 years as assistant village manager and director of community development, will replace Allison, who is retiring Jan. 31.

Mayor Roger Byrne is scheduled to make the official announcement at today's village board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at village hall, 290 Evergreen Drive.

Kalmar has been the point man for several major projects, sales tax agreements and other developments in the community, and his appointment is expected to provide a smooth transition and level of continuity.

Though it was not announced publicly, Allison informed the board in a letter in August that he would retire Jan. 31. The board began considering in-house possibilities.

“During these discussions, the board and I felt that we had the best candidate for the position on our staff,” Byrne said in information provided with the meeting material.

“It was a real easy decision because he's done such a great job,” said Trustee Thom Koch, who has been on the board since 1993.

Kalmar will become the community's fifth village manager. Allison succeeded Larry Laschen, who served 13 years.

Byrne cited Kalmar's talent in planning and development and noted that besides the normal plan review, he has negotiated several sales tax rebate agreements and coordinated the creation of a special taxing district at Route 45 and Milwaukee Avenue and the $50 million expansion at Westfield Hawthorn shopping center.

“These tasks have continued our efforts to bring retail like Mariano's and Steinhafels to our community and provided development even during the past economic downturn,” Byrne said.

Kalmar also worked with Byrne to bring the Victory Centre senior housing project to Vernon Hills. He also has worked on special events and has been involved in updating the village's comprehensive plan and website.

Kalmar previously served as village administrator in Hawthorn Woods and assistant city planner in Lake Forest. His proposed annual salary will be $155,000, a bump from his current $121,865. Allison makes $170,654.

Whether or how Kalmar's position will be replaced has not been determined.

Allison began his tenure in local government 38 years ago as an administrative assistant in Hanover Park and served as assistant village manager in Lisle and village manager in Winfield and Bensenville. Byrne, who has been mayor since 1993, at the time said experience with mature communities was one of the reasons Allison was selected, as Vernon Hills was headed in that direction.

In his resignation letter, Allison lauded the board and top staffers and noted that Kalmar provided “much of the critical analysis” needed on many projects in the past and the revised approach during the economic downturn.

Allison, 63, said living and working in Vernon Hills has been his best professional experience and there was no particular reason for retiring.

“It's just a feeling,” he said. “I think it's doing something in your life for 38 years — it's certainly nothing that has happened here.”

John Kalmar
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