By BOB WATSON
Carroll County Resident Circuit Judge Val Gunnarsson has announced that he is retiring and will not seek retention to the position next year.
"My term will expire in December of 2020 and I will have completed 18 years on the circuit bench," Gunnarsson said in a news release announcing his retirement. "It has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to have served the Illinois judiciary and the people of this state in that capacity."
Gunnarsson, 64, of Savanna, was first elected resident circuit judge in the March 2002 Republican primary election, defeating Andrew Smith and William Jegen. He filled a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John W. Rapp Jr. Voters overwhelmingly retained Judge Gunnarsson in the 2008 and 2014 elections.
Judge Gunnarsson said his early notification to not seek retention in 2020 was necessary so the Supreme Court could certify to the Illinois State Board of Elections that his position will become vacant at the end of his term. The State Board of Elections will place it on the ballot for the March 2020 primary and the November 2020 general election.
He will continue to serve as resident circuit judge in Carroll County until the end of his term around Dec. 1, 2020.
Judge Gunnarsson was born in New York and moved with parents to Savanna when he was 18 months old. He attended Savanna public schools from kindergarten through high Savanna, graduating from Savanna High School in 1973. He received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1977 and his J.D. from the University of Illinois, Champign-Urbana, in 1980.
He was elected Carroll County state's attorney in 1988 and was re-elected in 1992 and 1996.
"I promised to respect term limits and did not seek a fourth term," he said.
During his tenure on the bench, Gunnarsson served as chief judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit; was a member of the writing team for the Illinois Benchbook on courtroom evidence; was a facilitator of the judicial evaluation process of judges outside of the 15th Circuit; has taught at the Education Conference for Illinois judges; was chair of the Illinois Supreme Court committee on courtroom technology; and has presided over cases in every county in the 15th Circuit plus Winnebago, Kane, DuPage and Lake counties.
"I can never thank the people of Carroll County enough for the tremendous opportunities I have been given," Judge Gunnarsson said.
"And I wish I could somehow express my gratitude to this great nation which welcomed my immigrant parents who — just 24 and 30 years old — came to America from Iceland in 1949 with an infant child (my big brother), exactly $200 in cash, and their dreams,” added Judge Gunnarsson. “I will always be grateful."