Acknowledging 'contentious' arrival, Gallo says he brought reform to Rolling Meadows

In a farewell address, outgoing Rolling Meadows Mayor Joe Gallo acknowledged he made waves when he took the helm of city government four years ago, but said he hopes some of his resulting reforms helped pave the way to a better city.

"All gratitude goes to the residents who put their faith in me, trusting that as a mayor I would lead the city toward some of the changes that I had envisioned," Gallo said Tuesday night after adjourning his final city council meeting, and before he swore in new Mayor Lara Sanoica. "And it's no secret that my arrival was contentious. But I can walk away now proud knowing that I delivered on many of the promises regarding reform and those changes translating to progress. Anytime you disrupt the current order of things, you're bound to make waves, and there were no shortage of waves."

Then a first-term alderman, Gallo won a four-way race for mayor in 2019 after campaigning to change the "antiquated processes and archaic old school lines of thinking" in city government, he said at the time.

The council was fractured over the relocation of the city's two fire stations and the disposition of the downtown Dominick's property. Gallo was the panel's most outspoken on the two issues that long-dominated the city's politics.

But with resignations, Gallo's appointments and the next election two years later, the council changed in multiple ways. Rare were the raucous council meetings of the 2010s; a good number of them went virtual because of the pandemic. And the council is now majority female.

"I'm happy to say that when I look at the council I entered to the one that I'm leaving, there's a big difference in the way that this council works together and the way we come to conclusions and the way we compromise with where we need to go and where we want to be," Gallo said.

Not every vote was unanimous - like the 5-2 vote in July 2021 to fire longtime City Manager Barry Krumstok, who often butted heads with Gallo.

The city administrator sued Gallo and the city, claiming the mayor put him on administrative leave and asked for his resignation as a result of a personal vendetta. Gallo denied the accusations, and the council later gave Krumstok a list of nine reasons they voted to fire him, including a lack of alignment with the council's vision for the city and resistance to change.

Aldermen later agreed to settle the federal lawsuit for $250,000.

In his own farewell address Tuesday night, Jon Bisesi - one of the two aldermen who voted to keep Krumstok - said dealing with the litigation "wasn't fun."

But Gallo put Bisesi and Sanoica on a hiring committee to find Krumstok's successor, Rob Sabo, who took over day-to-day operations at city hall at the beginning of 2022.

"Regardless of how we got there, it was an outstanding hire, so I hope you stay there for a long time," Bisesi told Sabo.

That key hire at the top led to an almost-full-scale leadership reorganization amid other retirements and departures by department heads: the hiring of new finance and public works directors, promotion of two fire chiefs, and return of the assistant city manager position.

"I don't know what other mayor can say that they've taken part in seeing five of the six executive level roles in the city be replaced," Gallo said.

When Gallo was elected, he was 38 - then the youngest mayor in Rolling Meadows' history. Now his successor is the youngest, at age 32.

He endorsed Sanoica in December after deciding not to seek reelection, and she ran unopposed for the new 4-year term.

Also taking the oath of office Tuesday was Alderman Stefanie Boucher, a project manager at Motorola Solutions and former PTA president in local schools, who beat Bisesi by 13 votes in the Ward 5 election.

Sanoica appointed her replacement in Ward 7: Mike Koehler, a chemist and member of the city's environmental committee.

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  In a farewell address from the council floor, outgoing Rolling Meadows Mayor Joe Gallo said he made waves when he took office four years ago, but delivered on reforms. John Starks/
  Outgoing Rolling Meadows Mayor Joe Gallo, on the dais with City Attorney Melissa Wolf, ran his last council meeting Tuesday night after four years in the position. John Starks/
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