As she banged her gavel for the last time Monday evening, April 22, Oswego Village President Gail Johnson let the emotions flow through her. She wiped tears from her eyes and spoke through a cracking voice to let the community know what an honor it has been to serve them during her 4 year tenure as the village’s leader.
“Tonight’s a little emotional,” Johnson said, “It’s my last meeting, and you think it will never come, but it’s here.”
Johnson, and outgoing board members Karin McCarthy-Lange, Ryan Kauffman and Joe West, were treated with a warm reception prior to Monday’s meeting. There, in the lobby of Village Hall, hugs were shared, cake was eaten and reflection on accomplishments was thick in the air.
“The last four years have been some of the best of my life,” Kauffman said with his family by his side. “I’ve had a lot of fun on the board for four years. It would never have occurred to me that the adjective I’d use to describe my first term in office would be ‘fun’, but the staff and Mayor Johnson’s leadership has been exceptional.”
From building an award winning police station, to creating a TIF district and seeing downtown flourish, it was difficult for Kauffman to narrow down his biggest accomplishment during his time as a trustee. That said, he recognized that the work is far from over, and that incoming members and President Troy Parlier have big shoes to fill.
“We’re juggling about 98 different things right now. There’s a whole lot going on downtown, but the next board members and future mayor have indicated their support. I truly wish them the best of luck and hope they keep the progress going.”
Trustee Pam Parr, who will remain on the board, applauded the work done by the “dream team” she had to say good bye to on Monday night.
“Politics is an odd game, because sometimes when you’re successful, you still lose. Gail has done a brilliant job. Gail, Ryan, Karin and the rest of us accomplished more in four years than most people can do in 12,” she said.
Johnson credited that accomplishment to being forward thinking and taking steps toward the future. She said residential and business development has been kick-started again. The village’s downtown is thriving, and major strides have been made thanks to the board. But, it was the friendships she’s made and the relationships she’s forged that had the former president feeling especially emotional.
“Sometimes in your career you get the perfect mix of board members and staff and projects. We had it and we know it was a once in a lifetime thing. I will have these relationships long after we have all gone our separate ways,” she said.
For outgoing board members McCarthy-Lange and West, the honor of serving the Oswego community will not be forgotten.
McCarthy-Lange teared up as she gave her final remarks during her last board meeting. “It has been an honor to serve. This has been one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “We had the first female president, the first female majority board, and I don’t take that lightly.”
As a new board is seated, and the hard work continues, remaining board members are optimistic about the future.
“There’s a really, really steep learning curve and an amazingly short period of time to pick things up, but we’re looking forward to a new beginning,” Parr said. “We’re sad tonight for what we lose. But tomorrow’s a new beginning. Life will continue in Oz as we all know it. We just have a new Wizard now.”