LAKE FOREST, IL — An outgoing mayor and a pair of departing aldermen were honored by fellow elected officials and city staff Monday, as the Lake Forest City Council held the final meeting of its 2022-23 legislative term and the first session of its 2023-24 term.
Mayor George Pandaleon, 1st Ward Ald. Jed Morris and 2nd Ward Ald. Melanie Rummel wrapped up their terms on the volunteer board, with each outgoing councilmember presented with an honorary street sign.
“We all know, because we all live here, this is an extraordinary place to live. It’s an extraordinary city. The quality of life is just off the charts here. Most people wouldn’t even imagine being on vacation here, and we get to live here,” Pandaleon said.
“It’s been a huge privilege to be able to serve this city,” he said. “I expect to continue, I doubt they’re going to let me get away this easily. I’ll certainly entertain things that come along.”
City Manager Jason Wicha said Pandaleon had demonstrated a mastery of the level of nuance required to succeed as mayor since he took office in May 2019.
“A lot of the challenges you had to face as mayor were unique and unprecedented, and there was no playbook for how to handle these things,” Wicha said.
“And it is a real testament, I think, to your leadership and your instincts that we really managed to navigate all of them appropriately, quickly and almost always with the right outcome, as well,” he told Pandaleon.
Before becoming mayor, Pandaleon served six years on the Zoning Board of Appeals, six years on the plan commission, six years as an alderman, two years as chair of a Gorton Community Center committee and several six-months stints on various other ad hoc commissions.
“If you focus on what’s best for the city as a whole,” Pandaleon said, “it tends to work out pretty well.”
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Pandaleon said ensuring a smooth transition to a new city manager had been one of the most important tasks of his tenure.
A committee of the Lake Forest Caucus picked Pandaleon to succeed one-term mayor Rob Lansing in October 2018. The next month, Wicha was announced as the incoming city manager, succeeding longtime City Manager Bob Kiely. Then, after leaving office, Kiely pleaded guilty to attempted official misconduct in exchange for a reduced sentence after he was indicted on charges of illegally making payments to a lobbying firm.
“When I started this, people would ask me, ‘What do you want to do as mayor?’ and the first thing I said was, ‘Well, I’d just like it to be kind of a quiet, uneventful term,'” Pandaleon said. “That turned out not to happen.”
The outgoing mayor highlighted the reversal of local real estate trends that has coincided with his time in office, praising the efforts of city staff to revitalize the community with incoming families, many of whom were moving north with young children.
“We were able to attract [new residents] coming through COVID — and a little help from COVID,” he said. “That probably didn’t hurt, because people really wanted space, and they didn’t want to be in the city anymore, locked in their buildings. I can’t take credit for making it happen but I’m going to take credit for the fact that it did happen.”
Ald. Jim Preschlak, 3rd Ward, thanked the departing mayor for his 30 years of service to the community, noting Pandaleon had already been honored for his outstanding volunteer contributions prior to becoming mayor.
“Yours is a remarkable run, which will likely never be matched for both its longevity and the positive impact that you have had on our community,” Preschlak said. “You really are a one-of-a-kind Lake Forest city volunteer.”
Morris and Rummel were also praised by Wicha and their fellow aldermen as each completed their second terms on the City Council.
“I believe that Melanie and I are handing over our aldermen jobs when the city’s in a pretty enviable position,” Morris said.
“We know the town is filled with passionate individuals who care deeply about our community,
he said. “But it’s been great to have this experience and thank you very much.”
Wicha said Morris, who chaired the finance committee, helped leave the city in its best financial position in decades.
“I think in many ways you’ve personified the ideal standard for conduct and demeanor as an alderman,” Wicha said. “I’ve always been so impressed watching you operate in these meetings, and if there’s two words that I think of that sort of personify you, it’s ‘even-keeled,’ and I think most of your colleagues would agree with that.”
Rummel has changed the culture of the city organization during her time on the council to begin to view things to the lens of sustainability, according to the city manager.
“While Lake Forest, as a community, has always had a commitment to nature, the reality is it hasn’t always been as intuitive as part of our city government in the past,” Wicha said. “So thank you for the legacy you leave in helping us rethink how we go about doing our jobs and how we invest in infrastructure in this community.”
Rummel thanked Wicha and the rest of the City Council for their remarks praising her time in office.
“Thank you for allowing me to feel that my time spent on the council has been, in some way, consequential,” Rummel said. “Whether it is or not, others can decide. Most of all, I’m thankful for the incredible wisdom of our residents, the well of information, expertise and individuals willing to share their information and expertise to help our community truly make that well overflow.”
After wrapping up the mostly laudatory first session of Monday’s meeting, the City Council reconvened to swear in its new members: 1st Ward Ald. Terry Mieling, 2nd Ward Ald. John Powers and 4th Ward Ald. Richard Walther. Ara Goshgarian, who was re-elected last month, took the oath of office for a second time.
Mayor Randy Tack, who was elected last month in the city’s first contested mayoral election in more than two decades, was also sworn into office.
“I’d like to thank you all for coming to help us celebrate the respectful transition of government that Lake Forest has become used to,” Tack said.
“By the way,” he added, later in the meeting. “I hope that instead of being a ringleader of a circus I will be a conductor of an orchestra.”
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