At his last village board meeting before retiring as Homewood finance director, Dennis Bubenik was lauded by village officials for being a steady hand on the tiller during some occasionally turbulent times.
At the May 9 meeting, Village Manager Napoleon Haney provided some context for Bubenik’s 23 years at the helm.
“Dennis has been a committed finance director for some interesting times: the launch of Wikipedia, 9/11, Enron, the invention of the euro, American Idol, a recession, the Sox winning the World Series, Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor (of California) … the launch of Twitter, Nintendo launching the Wii game console, Barack Obama as the first African American president, the Cubs winning the World Series … a pandemic,” he said. “Dennis, you’ve seen Homewood through a lot. Rest assured you are leaving us in excellent shape.”
Haney presented Bubenik with a finance-oriented board game — Monopoly — as a parting gift from village staff.
“Twenty-three years went by fast. I can remember my first day like it was yesterday,” Bubenik said. He said he hoped the practices he implemented would continue to serve the village well.
Mayor Rich Hofeld thanked Bubenik for his service to the village, noting the finance director’s soft-spoken, economical style.
“Dennis, we thank you for everything you’ve done over the years, your succinct presentations of the budget, the audit report and any financial matters and liquor hearings that came forward,” he said.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Bubenik reminisced about some of the highs and lows of his tenure. The lows included a couple of the events in the world that had a direct impact locally, especially the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
“That sucked the life out of the economy there for quite a few years. When the economy slows down, a village like Homewood with sales tax slows down,” he said. “But you still have to put out fires and plow the streets.”
The 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 created another economic downturn that affected the village. But in more than two decades of ups and downs, Bubenik said he could remember only one staff layoff and six employees who took early retirement. He credits the village’s generally healthy reserve fund for keeping things stable during rough times.
Among the top successes during his tenure was the recent $12 million water main built to connect the village to the Chicago Heights water system, a project that was finished last year. The village was able to pay for the project without borrowing a dime thanks to thrifty practices.
“It’s 17 years of saving a little bit (each year) as opposed to the alternative of waiting until the project’s ready and then borrow all the money,” he said. “You have to be patient.”
Bubenik’s successor, Amy Zukowski, as been Homewood’s assistant finance director. She will be sworn in at the June 13 board meeting.