Oak Lawn police Chief Bill Villanova's last day on the job is Monday — bringing to an end a 36-year career with the department that began as a patrol officer.
Villanova spent much of his final week receiving congratulations and acclaim from village officials and staff, and from the officers he has led for the past seven years. Officers on Thursday honored the chief at a special ceremony.
Village board members took turns lauding Villanova at Tuesday's village board meeting, thanking him for his leadership during seven years as chief.
The board approved a proclamation designating Thursday as "Bill Villanova Day" in the village.
Village Clerk Jane Quinlan fought back tears as she talked about her professional relationship and friendship with Villanova.
"We're very lucky to have Bill in this town," said Quinlan, who added that she'll miss Villanova's daily visits to her office.
Mayor Dave Heilmann recalled the board choosing Villanova to lead the police department and the meeting at which he received the chief's badge.
"Thanks, you're a hell of a chief," Heilmann said.
Village manager Larry Deetjen said he enjoyed his working relationship with Villanova.
"I know you had nothing but the village's best interests in mind," Deetjen said.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), former village board liaison to the police department, thanked Villanova for "helping us understand the importance of public safety."
Villanova fought back tears during his remarks at the village board meeting.
"This is a great police department," said Villanova, who was flanked by several police officers. "I couldn't be prouder (of anyone) than this group of men and women. Even though I'm gone, I won't be far away, and I'll be watching."
Villanova's wife, Linda, and several members of his family attended the meeting.
Villanova received several awards and commendations during his career. He was named the 2012 Police Chief of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission.
He worked his way through the ranks in Oak Lawn, serving as an evidence technician, sergeant, lieutenant and chief of detectives. He also served as a team leader with the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.
The board will not consider Villanova's replacement until after the April 9 municipal election, Heilmann said.