Trustee Woodside named Gurnee Days Honoree
Gurnee Trustee Kevin Woodside, who served with the Gurnee Police Department for 30 years including seven as chief, will be the Gurnee Days honoree and grand marshal of the festival's parade this year.
Each year, Gurnee Days organizers choose an individual or couple to recognize meaningful contributions that make the community a better place to live and work.
Woodside is the first Gurnee Days honoree in three years. The festival was canceled in 2020. While parts of Gurnee Days went on last year, the testimonial dinner for the honoree wasn't held.
Woodside, who has attended the dinner and toasted past honorees, was surprised he was considered worthy of the recognition.
It was not a surprise to those who've worked with him for years.
Mayor Thomas Hood said Woodside is a man of integrity who definitely deserved to be added to the list of nearly 50 previous Gurnee Days honorees. Hood said Woodside lead the police department in a thoughtful way, engaging with officers to help make them better people.
"I'm proud to call him a friend," Hood said.
Gurnee Deputy Chief Jesse Gonzalez has worked with Woodside since he joined the department in 1988 and said he was a leader from the start.
"As a young officer he would field train other officers but he was not just teaching them how to do their jobs but how to serve others," Gonzalez said.
Woodside's successor Police Chief Brian Smith said Woodside has a servant's heart and it was no wonder he has dedicated his life to doing for others.
"The community is lucky he's still serving," Smith said.
Woodside said he knows it is cheesy to say but during his time as a police officer he fell in love with the Gurnee community.
"The community became a central part of my life and my family," Woodside said.
Woodside long has been involved with the service organization Gurnee Exchange Club, including spending two terms as the group's president.
Woodside said when he stepped down as police chief his village board colleague Cheryl Ross advised him that for the first year of his retirement he shouldn't say yes to any offer he got from local groups. Woodside said he tried to adhere to the advice from Ross, who similarly has led a life of committed public service and is a former Gurnee Days honoree herself. But around six months in, Woodside accepted an appointment to the board of directors for PADS Lake County, a group providing help to people experiencing homelessness.
While his passion for the community did not change after he retired from the police department at least one thing did: his facial hair.
"I called it my first act of rebellion after a 35-year career in uniformed law enforcement," Woodside said of his impressive beard. "And my wife likes it. That's been key to keeping it."
During his time as chief Woodside allowed an exception to the requirement officers must be clean-shaven during "No Shave November" to raise money for holiday charity fundraisers. When that proved successful he also implemented "Double Down December" to extend the respite from being clean-shaven.
Smith said the department now has a policy allowing for officers to wear shaped beards all year round.
The Gurnee Days celebration will run Aug. 6-7. The testimonial dinner honoring Woodside will be Aug. 5.