By MIKE NESTER
SAVANNA—The City of Savanna has a new mayor — finally.
The Savanna City Council unanimously approved appointing Val Gunnarsson as the new leader for the city at its Tuesday, June 14, meeting.
Gunnarsson will serve until the April 2023 election when a new mayor will be elected for the final two years of the term held by Chris Lain, who resigned this spring and moved from the area.
Acting Mayor Ald. Pat Sanchez said council members were unable to come to an agreement on who should be the next mayor and it turned to local resident Gunnarsson to fill the rest of the term. Twice the council had deadlocked on a 4-4 vote between Sanchez and Ald. Jeff Griswold.
Sanchez then made a motion to appoint Savanna resident Gunnarsson, a former Carroll County state’s attorney and Carroll County Circuit Court judge to the position, which the council unanimously approved without discussion.
Gunnarsson was then given the oath of office and addressed the council and audience for about 20 minutes.
"I lived in this town since I was 19 months old and I care about this town as much as you do," Gunnarsson said.
He said he had visited with Ald. Sanchez and Ald. Griswold, saying he plans to meet with each council member and establish "good communications."
I'm looking forward to working with our city officials," Gunnarsson said. "I'm a strong believer in law enforcement and good law enforcement holds a society together. My good friend Jeff Doran is an outstanding police chief" for Savanna.
Gunnarson said his relationship with Doran goes back 30 years when he was state's attorney and Doran was an investigator with the sheriff's department.
"Jeff was elected sheriff the same year I was elected judge," Gunnarsson recalled.
"Good law enforcement is professional law enforcement," continued Gunnarsson, a 1973 graduate of Savanna High School. "Over the years one thing I've learned, professional officers are trained, dedicated, under proper discipline, and respect the rights of the people."
Gunnarsson also talked about Savanna Fire Chief Scott Wolfe and the changes the fire department has undergone the past years, including losing the 911 dispatch center along with three full-time employees.
The new mayor said he had talked with Supt. of Public Works Brent Corey about how to deal with some of the rundown properties in Savanna.
"Now my 18 years on the bench I've dealt with most of the condemnation cases in Carroll County and that process is slow and costs money," said Gunnarsson. "I'm talking about properties you are embarrassed to see and very often, these parcels are owned by people not in Savanna. We need to deal with this problem in next year's budget."
Savanna's new mayor hopes to meet with every business owner in the community, saying, "I want to meet with all of our businesses in town. I want to know what can we do in Savanna to be more business friendly."
Added Gunnarsson, “I'm going to work and I’m going to ask you to work with me and do everything we can to make our little town a better place."
Following his acceptance speech, Mayor Gunnarsson was given a standing ovation.