Mayor Richard Kopczick bids farewell

Longest serving mayor in Morris history says good-bye

MORRIS – Colleagues, family and friends turned out in droves Monday morning as Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick chaired his final City Council meeting and bid farewell to the office he had held for the previous 20 years. Kopczick was the longest-termed mayor in Morris history, surpassing the 12-year run of James R. Washburn from 1981 to 1993.

After the regular business of the City Council, which included the annexation of more than 650 acres of land into the city, the mayor presented retiring Police Chief John Severson with a plaque commemorating his service. Severson then thanked the citizens of Morris for the honor of serving them as police chief and his family for their support and snapped off a final salute to the members of the Morris Police Department gathered in the back of the room.

“To the ladies and gentlemen in the back row, it has been my privilege to walk beside you,” he said.

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, then presented Kopczick with a resolution thanking him for his years of service and listing his many accomplishments while in the mayor’s office, including the most annexations in Morris mayoral history, the replacing of the old Morris pool with a new state-of-the-art facility, and converting some of the land on the site of the old paper mill into land designated for Habitat for Humanity housing.

Former City Attorney Scott Belt then took to the podium and related some of the many stories about Kopczick he had gained over his years of working alongside him.

Belt recalled that, 20 years ago, on the last day to file for candidacy, Kopczick had driven his 1929 Ford Model A to D&S Foods in Marseilles where he had been assigned to work that day. A snowstorm hit, and Kopczick had to drive the Model A back to Morris in time to file. The Ford did not have windshield wipers, so Kopczick had to lean out the window and wipe off the windshield with his arm. He filed his petition at 4:14 p.m., only 16 minutes before the deadline. He won the election, taking every precinct in Morris, the first time that had ever been done.

“He took that win as a measure of trust from the community,” Belt said. “He always placed the city first, and he served every day with integrity and honesty.”

Belt said Kopczick had served with 33 aldermen, passed more than 1,000 ordinances and presided over more than 480 City Council meetings. He also had a large part in building city infrastructure that will allow for growth and expansion.

Then it was time for Kopczick to speak.

“What I am about to say, I am not going to include any names for two reasons,” he said. “One, inevitably, I would forget someone and feel really terrible, and two, if I were to go through all of the names, Mayor-elect Brown wouldn’t be sworn in until tomorrow. First, I would like to thank all of the aldermen, each of you seated here today and all of those for the last two decades that I have had the pleasure of working with. All those that have served on the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Police Commission, the Pension Fund, you all were the ones that made the decisions that have had such positive impact on our city.

“Next, I would like to thank all of those in the administration of City Hall. You are the ones that toil to keep everything moving, from the secretaries that kept me in line to those that handle the financials to those that do the water billing to those in charge of building and zoning, along with those before you, you are the invisible force that allows this all to work. I would also like to thank all the fine men and women who are serving in the police department, the public works – from the water department to the sewer department, parks and street and alley. You keep all of us safe and our community’s facilities in line and working.

“Then, all the professionals I have had the opportunity to work with. From the engineers to the attorneys to consultants who were there to help keep us all on track. There were so many great people that have become friends. My life has been permanently changed for the better because of all of you. That is the true wealth.

“Then to my family: My wife, my children, my grandchildren, they have sacrificed so much over the years. There is no way I could have done this job without their support.

“Last, I would like to thank the people of Morris. They bestowed on me their trust for all these years. I am truly humbled and blessed to have had the honor to serve you and this city. Thank you.”

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.