The Naperville Settlement has a new boss who seems to be cut from the right historical and experiential cloth to keep the local outdoor history museum moving forward — even if he isn’t likely to spend a lot of time in the boss’s chair.
“I love history especially the Civil War period and things involving Abraham Lincoln,” said Mike Krol, 71, who became the museum’s interim president and CEO on May 1. “The city of Naperville has its own rich history, which makes this job even more interesting.”
A resident of Naperville for almost 30 years, Krol attended Northwestern and the Kellogg Company Executive Program before going to work for AT&T for almost 40 years. While there, he served in a number of capacities, including work in communications, engineering, budget, marketing and sales, and long-range planning. Retirement followed and the golf courses beckoned.
“I was brought back out of retirement after playing as much golf as I possibly could, and realizing I was not going to make the senior tour,” Krol said with a laugh. “There was an opportunity to join the Heritage Society Board, and when the CEO position opened up for the (Settlement), I was encouraged to look into it and took the job.”
Despite only being in his new position for about five months, Krol keeps a full schedule these days and says the Settlement “is on a steady course.”
“There are quality people on the staff here who know what they are doing,” he says. “The best thing is to leave them alone and let them do it. I guess the thing I bring is the outside experience as opposed to the ‘museum side,’ which is something I think very highly of.”
He says his job is to listen to the community and find out what they expect.
Krol replaces Peggy Frank, who worked at the museum for more than 30 years.
According to Steve Grosskopf, 41, vice chairman of the Naperville Heritage Society Board of Directors, Krol’s expertise allows the board the luxury of not having to act in a hurry to find a permanent replacement nor compromise any of its short- or long-term goals.
“Mike gives us time to do a more thorough search and get some of our resources together,” Grosskopf said. “We needed a great guy like Mike who has the right community connections and someone with his senior executive background and experience.”
Grosskopf said Krol provides a way to reach for what he called the Settlement’s “2.0 stage.”
“Mike provides us with a unique way to really understand where we are going in the future and what it will take to get us there,” Grosskopf added. “It allows us to set our goals high without having that new person here yet who might not know Naperville as well and be, perhaps, a little overwhelmed. Having him allows us to set the stage for 2.0, and Mike has accepted the job and is comfortable doing it on an interim basis. We count our blessings that we have him.”
Krol said the biggest challenge he sees for the organization is raising adequate funds to meet the needs of visitors, topping more than 115,000 people a year. The Settlement, he said, has been listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of the top 25 tourist attractions. Having the Settlement be a part of the city’s fabric, he said, is important.
“We have 13 acres here that are part of the downtown area, and the city owns the land as well as the buildings, and we managed it for them,” Krol said. “One of things we’re working on now is to collect artifacts that relate to the present time, so that people living in 2113 can know what life here was like 100 years ago.”
Krol said his wife retired from AT&T in 1998, and he followed a year later. They considered moving to Chicago’s southwest suburbs to be closer to family, but in the end, they just couldn’t leave.
“My wife and I just thought will all amenities here like the library and the Riverwalk and all the restaurants and the rest of the downtown, we’d be giving up too much,” he said. “We feel like what we have here is just too precious.”
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