Willey won’t run for 4th term

By on December 12, 2008

Mayor led Elburn board during time of growth
by Martha Quetsch

            Since he took office in 1997, Elburn Village President Jim Willey has encouraged conversation and consensus with the goal of improving the community, he said.

            Willey, who announced Dec. 3 he will not run for re-election in April, said the many major projects undertaken by the village during his tenure required that leadership style.

            Among those was planning Elburn’s Blackberry Creek subdivision from inception, including establishing conservation principles and an historic street-name pattern into its design, he said.

            Willey consistently has promoted making the community “better, not just bigger,” negotiating with developers for impact fees and public amenities, from parks to bike paths.

            “It opens up a completely different conversation with them,” Willey said. “The important thing is that the town have a vision and ask for that. Any time I said no to a developer, the plan got better later on.”

            Another village achievement since Willey took office was bringing two new elementary schools to Elburn, Blackberry Creek and John Stewart.

            “There were big issues to work out, from location to design to impact fees,” Willey said. “Everybody had to be on board—the village, the (Kaneland) School District and the developers.”

            Since Willey took office, Elburn has replaced several million dollars worth of worn-out streets. The need for that improvement made Willey want to run for office, he said.

            “I felt very strongly we needed to work on these streets,” Willey said. “They were in very, very bad shape.”

            The street repair project also included installing sealed manholes to make the stormwater system tighter, he said.

            Among other village accomplishments during the past 11 years were bringing a commuter train station to the village, for which choosing a site and other decisions were “huge challenges” for the Village Board.

            “We had to work with so many different entities—the village, the county, state and federal agencies, and the railroad. Basically, we had to put together a five-way deal.”

            A particularly challenging task for Willey and the Village Board was meeting a federal mandate to remove radium from Elburn’s water.

            He and the trustees spent many months studying and debating several remediation methods, choosing one that could save the village millions of dollars in the future compared to other options, Willey said: installing a radium filter on each village well, including one in Blackberry Creek paid for by the developer.

            Willey said he worked hard to garner support from village trustees for the purchase of property on the north side of North Street, for Prairie Park and a new public works complex on the site to replace the former dilapidated facility on First Street at the railroad tracks.

            “The village really needed to acquire this property,” Willey said.

            Since Willey became village president, Elburn established new business complexes, including the Jewel-Osco complex and the future Walgreens center. Negotiating for village receipt of the full sales taxes from commercial developments was a must for Willey.

            “We need the revenue for our town,” Willey said.

            Making sure revenue meets expenditures will be the biggest challenge for the future Village Board under the leadership of a new president, Willey said. With the economic downturn and fewer housing starts, village revenue from building permit fees and sewer connection fees could drop significantly, he said.

            “The Village Board will have to manage the reduction in revenue, and make tough decisions about what can stay and what can go,” Willey said

            Willey said he based his decision not to run for village president for a fourth term on a promise he made to his wife Cathy, who passed away suddenly in 2006. In addition, he wants to focus on his work as director of the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Practice, a position he has held for the past two years.

            Previously, he had a dental practice at 135 S. Main St., Elburn, for 26 years. He and Cathy raised two sons in Elburn, twins Andrew and David. Both sons are pursuing doctoral degrees, David in Slavic languages at Yale University and Andrew in classic studies at the University of Minnesota.

            Willey was a village trustee from 1995 to 1997. In his first Village Board President race, he defeated incumbent Mike Stoffa. In the 2001 municipal election, Willey defeated Jack Hansen. Willey was unopposed in the 2005 race for the office.

            Elburn resident Dave Anderson announced last month that he will be a candidate for village president in 2009.