Former St. Charles city official honored with Charlemagne Award

Mark Koenen, 2024 Charlemagne Award winner, greets his brother, Larry Koenen, during the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce at the Q Center in St. Charles on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Longtime resident and former public official Mark Koenen served the city of St. Charles for 39 years in multiple capacities, including city administrator and director of public works.

Mark Koenen accepts the 2024 Charlemagne Award during the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce at the Q Center in St. Charles on Friday, May 17, 2024.

The St. Charles Chamber of Commerce presented Koenen with the city’s highest honor – the Charlemagne Award – at the 56th annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner on May 17 at the Q Center.

The Charlemagne Award, established in 1968, is a lifetime achievement award given to one community member each year with a distinguished history of service to the city of St. Charles.

Chamber of Commerce board chairman Josh Feagans was the emcee for the ceremony, which was attended by about 300 community members, business owners, past award winners and city officials. Feagans presented Koenen with the 56th Charlemagne award.

“We recognize the Charlemagne lifetime achievement of an individual who has dedicated their time, efforts and talents to making our community the great place it is today while demonstrating the very essence behind the legend that is Charlemagne,” Feagans said. “[Koenen] has been an excellent example of servant leadership with numerous acts of volunteerism.”

Mark Koenen (center), 2024 Charlemagne Award winner, is surrounded by his family during the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce at the Q Center in St. Charles on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Koenen retired in 2021 after serving as city administrator for eight years. Before that, he served as director of public works for 23 years and before that worked in the city’s engineering department for eight years.

During his tenure, Koenen played a pivotal role in the development of several award-winning city projects and commissions including the Prairie Street Bridge, the Red Gate Bridge, the new police station, the First Street Plaza and the liquor commission.

“St. Charles is a special community,” Koenen said. “Thank you for letting me do my job and I hope that I never let any of you down because you’re all wonderful. Thank you so very much.”

The Charlemagne award represents the vision of the 16th mayor of St. Charles, CV Amenhoff, who wrote the short story, “The Legend of Charlemagne.”

The story personified the four bronze fox statues on the Main Street Bridge, which were Charlemagne’s four sons that he left to guard and guide the city in becoming “a community where men can live, can work, can be educated, can worship and can play.”

The four foxes, much like the Charlemagne award winners, are said to embody the city’s four-pronged mission statement: “Heritage. Community. Service. Opportunity.”

The Charlemagne Award was the first of many recognitions during the gala, which marked the Chamber’s 102nd anniversary. The event also celebrated community business leaders and their accomplishments, as well as the Chamber of Commerce’s milestones and achievements in 2023.

Mayor Lora Vitek spoke at the gala, praising the Chamber for its work to help the St. Charles business community thrive and congratulating Koenen and the rest of the award winners.

“His [Koenen’s] engineer’s mind, his attention to detail and his incredible knowledge of all things St. Charles was invaluable and still is,” Vitek said. “I’m so happy that Mark’s dedication and decadeslong commitment to making St. Charles a better place has been recognized tonight.”

“As I look around tonight, as I have every year, I see people in this group who represent some of the best of the best that St. Charles has to offer,” Vitek said. “I applaud each of you for believing in our city and committing yourself, all of your time and your resources to making your business and this community something very special.”

Chamber Executive Director Deborah Gurley presented the 29th annual L.E.A.P. award to Becky Gillam, chief of staff for the office of State Sen. Don DeWitte and chair of the Kane Forest Preserve Foundation. L.E.A.P. stands for Leadership, Excellence, Achievement and Professionalism.

Becky Gillam (left) accepts the 2024 L.E.A.P. Award from St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deborah Gurley during the 56th Annual Charlemagne Awards Dinner at the Q Center in St. Charles on Friday, May 17, 2024.

“This is so exciting and it means so much, especially to come from a group like this.” Gillam said. ”This truly is an honor. Thank you so much.”

Other award winners included:

• Community Development Awards: Andy’s Frozen Custard, Baker Memorial Methodist Church, Kiddie Academy, Realtor Association of the Fox Valley, The Pride of St. Charles, The Springs of St. Charles and Tiger Drylac USA

• Community Image Awards: Dear Donuts, Flower of Life Yoga & Wellness Studio, Fully Promoted St. Charles and Rosie’s Color Studio

• Civic Image Awards: City of St. Charles (First Street Plaza), Clarke Mosquito Control and Dr. J. Luell Clarke III (First Street Plaza) and St. Charles Park District (Kehoe “Rocket” Park)