By Bob Balgemann


Lori Mitchell has been a resident of the village for a long time and over those years spent many years serving the public.

For 20 years she worked for Harlem School District 122, coordinating staff and community relations.

She retired in 2004 but after one year was back in the public arena, winning election as Machesney Park village clerk, a job she would keep for the next 15 years.

Now it’s time for her to retire again and open a new chapter in her life, sharing the years that lie ahead between Arizona during the warmth of winter, then returning to her village home to be with friends and family in the summer.

Her final village board meeting was Monday, Dec. 21, 2020.

After announcing the winners of this year’s village-wide holiday decorating contest, she paused to thank family, residents and staff for the enjoyment she has had working for the people of Machesney Park. She wished everyone a blessed Christmas and a COVID-free New Year.

The first of two hearty rounds of applause followed, with accolades for a job so well done being issued by the officials with whom she had worked for varying amounts of time.

Mayor Steve Johnson said he and his wife, retired Parks Chamber of Commerce executive director Diana Johnson, had known Lori for 25 years. They were elected in the same year, 2005, she to a first term as village clerk and he as the village treasurer.

“We have many fond memories of working together both here at village hall and at many community events,” he said, “including the Young At Hearts Festival in Loves Park; the Light Up The Parks parade; and various Parks Chamber of Commerce events and many more.”

Both have offices in village hall and to her, Mayor Johnson said, “I will miss stopping by your office and seeing your smiling face. Please keep in touch.”

Prior to his recent appointment as village administrator, James Richter II worked with Mitchell for four years as community development director.

“Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Lori Mitchell knows she is a strong, skilled, classy and professional lady,” he said. “It’s truly been an honor and a privilege to work with one of the most caring persons this village has ever seen.”

“Each and every day I can count on Lori to set a positive tone in the workplace because she’s always happy,” he continued. “She’s always kind and she’s always professional. In the world of municipal clerks, I assure you Lori Mitchell is a legend.”

Outside village hall, Administrator Richter referred to her as “the village’s greatest ambassador.” And to her, he said, “Your knowledge, organization, attention to detail and hard work have touched countless lives and we are blessed to have had the opportunity to work with you. We will miss you dearly. But we wish you all the best in your well deserved retirement.”

He then announced her as recipient of the village’s Distinguished Service Award, with the inscription being read by the mayor.

Additional best wishes came from trustees, other staff, Village Attorney Tom Green and Village Engineer Chris Dopkins. Also that week there was a remotely held retirement party plus get-togethers with friends in the community.

In one of several poignant moments second-term Trustee Terri Bailey offered her congratulations and hopes for the future, saying she had known the clerk – her mother – for 49 1/2 years.

Her involvement

After taking office, Clerk Mitchell began the educational process of learning the functions of the Office of Village Clerk and Municipal Government. That effort resulted in her becoming an Illinois Registered Municipal Clerk (RMC), as well as an Internationally Certified and Master Municipal Clerk (CMC and MCI).

Her name and reputation were known well outside the borders of the village.

She represented Machesney Park by serving in many offices with the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC) and MCI, culminating with a two-year term as state president of MCI.

In addition, she served for several years on the Illinois Municipal League’s Legislative Team, working alongside mayors and legislators from around the state to generate legislation that would benefit not only Machesney Park, but municipalities throughout Illinois.

She was recognized several times by the Illinois legislators and was named both the Northwestern Illinois Municipal Clerk of the Year and, most recently, as the Illinois Municipal Clerk of the Year in 2017.

In addition to all that, Mitchell was active in many area civic organizations including the Rock Valley Homeless Coalition, Rock Valley Credit Union Board of Directors, GPAC Senior Center Board and the Loves Park Chamber of Commerce. At the chamber, she coordinated volunteers for Young At Heart.

She also served on the North Suburban Library District Local History Committee, as secretary of the Harlemites Alumi and Friends organization, president of the Lions Park Lions Club, as an elder and clerk of Session at Bethany Presbyterian Church and for the last 29 years as newsletter editor and CEO for Fishers of Men Prison Ministrues.

Mitchell was planning to leave for her new winter home on Dec. 28.

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