Outgoing mayor’s last weeks in office mark end of an era

MARION, IL – Jan. 31, 2018, will mark the end of an era for Marion, Illinois. Longtime Mayor Bob Butler will retire after 54 years of service.

Butler was first elected in 1963. That is the same year John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It’s also the year of the “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Butler will be 91 on his last day at city hall.

Marion, Illinois Photo courtesy: WCHS

Jeanette Linck remembers when she and her husband packed up their home and their two children and moved to Marion. She said it’s come a long way since 1960. Because there were no “good” jobs, she said, she fulfilled a personal goal and became a nurse. Now, Marion is a regional hub for shopping, dining, and medical treatment. “It’s spread out all over the place,” Linck said. “My husband used to say if it kept growing west, it was going to connect with Carbondale and we’d never know where it ended.”

She attributes much of the city’s success to Butler. “It seemed he had a lot of good ideas that he wanted to implement, and he worked hard at getting them done. Everything wasn’t accepted, but he kept doing it,” Linck said.

She still volunteers at the Marion Senior Citizens Center at age 87. She also runs a small community herself. Linck is mayor of the Village of Spillertown. Her philosophy is she can either be an old 87 or a young 87.

While she’s able to keep up the public service, she understands Butler’s decision. “When you get old, things start wearing out. It’s like an old car. You can replace some things, and some things you just can’t, and you have to accept it and go on,” she said.

Anthony Ronella will take over Butler’s post Feb. 1. He also hopes to be elected to a full term in April 2019. He said he plans to continue building on the foundation Butler has set for the city. “We’re going to do business like he was here. There’s not going to be any changes,” he said.

Monday, he pledged he wouldn’t come into city hall as mayor and clean house with the city staff. “You drive around and you look at Marion, a progressive and growing city, one of the few in the state of Illinois. Why would you interrupt that? Why would you interrupt that and bring a new personnel?” he said.

Butler is still very popular among voters. He won his last election, in 2015, with 71 percent of the vote.

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