Longtime Gurnee mayor says farewell to village at final board meeting
In her final act as Gurnee's mayor, Kristina Kovarik thanked the village staff, residents, community partners, fellow elected officials and her family and friends who supported her during her 16-year tenure in the village's top job.
"Every day for the last 16 years I woke up with a ton of gratefulness and thankfulness to have been given the privilege and trust to lead Gurnee," Kovarik said. "I thrived on the constant challenges, and as a team we rose and exceeded expectations on our common goals and purpose."
Her successor, Tom Hood, was sworn in Monday.
First elected in 2005, Kovarik's mayoral tenure is the third-longest in Gurnee history. She chose not to seek a fifth term.
Among the challenges Kovarik faced during her four terms were both the Great Recession and a global pandemic, but she will leave with a legacy of attracting new businesses to town, including Macy's in the midst of the Great Recession and Great Wolf Lodge after Key Lime Cove went under in 2017.
The meeting started with Kovarik and her four grandchildren gathering around a microphone in the middle of the meeting room to lead the crowd of about 60 people, all masked, in the Pledge of Allegiance.
"They came up from Florida to be here tonight," Kovarik said.
She then returned to her perch at the middle of the dais for the final time to lead the board in some business, including approving payroll.
"Sure we don't have anything else?" Kovarik asked village administrator Patrick Muetz. "I kind of want to stay a little longer."
"You could stay for the whole meeting," Muetz replied.
"Yeah, but I like sitting up here," Kovarik joked.
Muetz was one of several people Kovarik singled out for praise during her farewell address. Muetz has been village administrator the last nine years.
"I hope he will manage the village the next two decades," Kovarik said. "I never felt alone or that the burden was all mine. I am so proud of you and I'm going to miss you terribly."
Kovarik thanked Donna Dallas, the village's deputy clerk and executive assistant.
"I could not have been mayor without her and I'm not sure how I will manage my life without her," Kovarik said.
She also thanked Dick Welton for believing in her. Welton, who died in 2015, served as mayor from 1973 to 2001.
"(He) took Gurnee from a small town to a regional destination; all I had to do was take good care of it for him," Kovarik said.
Among the final people Kovarik thanked was her successor Tom Hood, whose decades of experience in village government include eight years as a trustee. He defeated challenger David Weinstein in the April election.
"It's your turn now to take care of it, keep it safe and lead it; the reins are yours," Kovarik said.
Kovarik ended her remarks with a quote from Dr. Seuss.
"'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened,'" Kovarik said before the crowd stood and applauded.