Laughs, tears, and a 'standing O'
May 4 was the first time in over a year that more than a handful of people attended a Glenview board of trustees meeting in person.
They had a rare opportunity to see the full emotional investment of their elected representatives.
About 50 people gathered in the Village Hall Board Room to honor outgoing trustees John Hinkamp, Debby Karton and Karim Khoja, witness the transfer of the village presidency from Jim Patterson to trustee Mike Jenny, and watch new trustees Gina DeBoni, Tim Doron and Adam Sidoti take oath of office.
More friends and family waited in the wings, under COVID distancing protocol, until contingents filtered out to provide sufficient seating. Many at home or present, such as Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, former trustee Paul Detlefs and Unite Glenview's Kay Laurie, received credit as inspirations or mentors.
"It has been a long time since we've had a room full -- not complete, but at least some -- that resonates with the Pledge of Allegiance, and that's always nice," said Patterson, a two-term president with a quarter-century of service as a trustee and with several other bodies since moving to Glenview in 1993.
It was the 33rd virtual meeting under the pandemic, this one a "hybrid." Jill Brickman, who lost her reelection campaign for Northfield Township supervisor, Zoomed in to be honored for two decades of service.
"She was practically born a Rotarian," Patterson said with a chuckle, "and embodies the Rotary motto of 'Service Above Self.'"
The idea for this salute, Karton told the crowd in a nod to anti-partisanship, came from Brickman's victorious opponent, Shiva Mohsenzadeh.
While quick to smile and generally a measured presence on the board, Patterson got only seconds into his final meeting before feeling its full weight. Reading the official COVID disaster preamble he had recited scores of times without incident, his voice subtly broke and he required a pair of pauses to compose himself and continue.
It was a stirring display of devotion and the gravity of the post.
Early in the evening Patterson reminded the trustees-elect they'd be spending more than $4 million "in the first five minutes of their election."
After the meeting, Patterson said he was struck by the reality it was the last time he'd sit on the dais.
He was not alone among the verklempt. Karton admitted she'd had a rough day even before arriving at Village Hall. She spent much of her last hour of service blinking away tears, befitting the longest-serving trustee in Glenview history at 16 years.
"She has a big heart," Patterson said, "and a lot of it is in Glenview."
Karton, who called the board's arrangement to bring Heinen's grocery store to the village was the best thing it had done in her tenure, stressed the importance of resident involvement early in development, and a nonpartisan board she hoped would continue.
Though initially needing a second interview years back to convince slatemakers she had the stuff, Karton called Glenview "a government utopian dream come true."
"For many of us," she said, "public service can be an honorable career, or it can be a semi-volunteer position like serving as a trustee. Regardless of your role, I'm sure you can agree with me that there's nothing more rewarding. I've gotten so much more out of this than anything I've put in.
"I want to end this as I started: to thank you, the residents of Glenview, for this incredible honor of being a trustee in this village for the past 16 years. I will miss serving the community."
Patterson joined her in embrace as Karton haltingly laughed, a substitute for sobs.
"So how's that for wearing your heart on your sleeve?" he asked the room.
Hinkamp brought laughs when, after Patterson's lengthy tribute to Karton, he predicted his address "should be shorter."
"It is," Patterson said, smiling.
In his eight years, Hinkamp acted as the board's no-nonsense fiduciary bulldog.
"I tried to stay true to myself, and I think I did a good job with that," he said.
"John was a good challenger," Patterson said.
Four-year trustee Khoja said he and his wife moved to Glenview when their two children were 1- and 2-years-old. Nearly 20 years later, they'll soon both be attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas. After the Khojas spend a year in Chicago, they'll follow their sons to Texas.
"We could not have picked a better community in the entire world to raise two young boys," Karim said.
When it came time to transfer board leadership, Patterson drew praise as a tireless collaborator who over more than two decades helped shape the municipality -- from sparing Wagner Farm from development to the current Glenview Connect development plans.
"Jim always encouraged every trustee to do their homework, to think through issues and come to a conclusion of their own," incoming village president Jenny said.
"Few people, maybe with the exception of his wife, Sheri, truly realize the amount of time Jim Patterson commits to the role of village president. He is someone that genuinely cares about making Glenview a better place, and for that everyone in the village should be truly grateful."
Village Manager Matt Formica -- who earned much praise from outgoing personnel including a tearful Karton -- is one of those few people.
"There's not a day that goes by the village manager and the village president aren't talking about something village-related," he said. "So we have a perspective just into the amount of time and commitment that these individuals provide to the community. I don't think people really realize the amount of time and sacrifice personally and professionally that these individuals make all toward the betterment of Glenview and making it a better place."
Patterson drew a standing ovation, thanked communications manager Lynne Stiefel for "making me look good," and at 8:45 p.m. swore in Jenny as new village board president.
"I learned how to do this job from a number of people in this room, but in particular from Jim Patterson," said Jenny, who earned degrees from Vanderbilt and Washington University in St. Louis.
His first act was to usher in new trustees DeBoni, Sidoti and Doron, who also drew applause when 4-year-old granddaughter Libby Condon ran into the board room and gave him a hug.
"I've gotten to know them much, much better over the past few months and I am confident that they will be able to step into some pretty big shoes and continue that culture and that tradition of collaborative, independent leadership for our community," said Jenny, who also will appoint a trustee to replace the position he'd held since 2011.
As Patterson had noted, the fresh trustees approved a consent agenda that included contracts for more than $3 million of construction work.
Needing Formica's clarification on procedure, Jenny said, "You'd think I've been doing this for 10 years."
Chuck Gitles, a returning trustee along with Mary Cooper, quickly quipped: "10 minutes."
Toward the back of the room, there for the duration one last time, Patterson offered a soft, timely, "motion carries."