NEGAUNEE - After six years on the Negaunee City Council, and even more years of public service stretching back through the 1980s to World War II, Mayor Richard Wills has passed the gavel to Mayor-elect Keith LaCosse.
The city council approved a resolution at its meeting Thursday night honoring Wills for his "conscientious, dedicated and able" work as a public servant.
Thursday's city council meeting was the last for Wills will attend, and his fellow council members took the opportunity to speak about what his service has meant to them.
Outgoing Negaunee Mayor Richard Wills, left, receives a plaque in recognition of his years of public service to the city of Negaunee from Mayor-elect Keith LaCosse at Thursday’s Negaunee City Council meeting. Wills will step down as mayor at the end of the month. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"Mayor Wills has been a fantastic asset to me," Councilman Michael Haines said. "I really, really think that Negaunee owes him a great debt of gratitude. His service to this city - his service to this country - goes all the way back to the late 1930s, goes through World War II. ... I don't think Negaunee could have a better representative."
Councilman Michael Van Straten said Wills has often been a role model for him.
"As a young patrolman, I looked up to you, I admired your wisdom, your fortitude, your drive, your desire to keep doing what's right for the city of Negaunee," he said.
Councilwoman Dawn Schuhknecht talked about Wills' role in getting her to run for the city council and his help in introducing her to city governance.
"It's been a very eye-opening and learning experience, and I appreciate all of your mentoring to me and your calls to explain things when I was in the dark," she said. "It has just been a pleasure and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know you."
LaCosse told Wills that the council would miss him and told him to keep in touch.
"You are an example of selfless service that we all should emulate," LaCosse said. "Not only to your country but to your community. And I really do appreciate all that you've done. ... I can't thank you enough."
Wills congratulated Schuhknecht and LaCosse on their wins in the city election last week and commented on how much he's learned in his time with the council.
"The last six years have been an education," he said. "Government has changed so much since the 1980s that it took me almost two years to get back on track again."
Wills said that it has been a pleasure to work with the the council and thanked all of the members for their kind words.
"Without you people, I'm nothing," he said. "I may sit here as the mayor, but you're still only one person, one vote."
LaCosse will begin his one-year term as mayor Dec. 1.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org