SOUTH BARRINGTON – Almost 45 years ago, Frank Munao Jr. moved to South Barrington and wanted to get to know some of his neighbors. Meeting at kitchen tables with the village’s founders, he started a life of public service. Come May 1, his time serving as village president will end.
“I was always a country boy at heart,” Munao said, despite his Chicago upbringings.
This desire to live in a rural area brought him to South Barrington in 1969. Since then, he has served many roles in village government, including building and zoning officer, village treasurer, member and chairman of the planning commission and zoning board of appeals, and village president, or, as he prefers to call it, mayor.
Munao served as South Barrington’s village president back in the late 1970s, took a break, and came back to the job in 2001. Over the past few years, he’s been considering the idea of retiring as the village’s top elected official. And when the April 9 election rolls around, you won’t see his name on the ballot.
During his years as village president, Munao has had several pet projects. The first of these was deciding how to help the town make decisions about commercial development. The results were projects like the Arboretum, which he says is a shining part of South Barrington now.
Another project that Munao was instrumental in was the creation of the South Barrington Conservancy.
Joe Abbate, a village trustee and longtime coworker of Munao, said the 35-acre space has a lot to do with Munao’s personality.
“The conservancy that we have in town is a testament to his vision and his enjoyment of the outdoors,” Abbate said.
Even once his last day arrives, Munao will continue to run the village’s emergency management system. His system is admired by many other communities and held as an example of how such a department should work. Its success lies in his passion for the program, which he started emphasizing after Sept. 11, 2001.
“I think that was a shocker,” Munao said. “We were kind of used to the idea of storms and floods and all that kind of stuff that had been happening forever, but we never had the manmade disaster type thing like 9/11.”
While the community needs to be aware of and prepare for potential attacks, disasters such as tornadoes or chemical spills from a truck or train are more common and higher on the priority list.
“I thought to myself, I can’t continue to do this and be able to improve the emergency management issues that I wanted to see done,” he said. “I couldn’t do both. My time was becoming so consumed by everything that I even neglected my own personal affairs.”
His dedication is something his associates have admired. Paula McCombie, a village trustee who is slated to become president when Munao leaves, said she regards him as a mentor.
“He’s willing to put in whatever time it takes,” McCombie said. “He goes to multiple meetings. It’s an unpaid position. He spends unbelievable hours here and he goes to meetings outside of the village as well. He’s really donated his life to this village since I’ve known him.”
Abbate said Munao has treated the unpaid position like a full-time job. “I think you can look around this village and you’ll see his hand in a lot of things that he’s guided through the years to make sure we’ve kept our overall plan of development in place,” Abbate said. “He’s dedicated many, many hours to this village, very unselfishly.”
Manao plans to continue donating his time in the conservancy, emergency management, and as a liaison between the contractor and the village when the village hall gets an update.
“If it was a clean cut totally, there might be a feeling of a void, because when you do this for 40 years and all of a sudden you’re cut away from it, it’s a bit of a shock,” Munao said of leaving.