Longest-tenured Elk Grove trustee won't seek reelection
When James Petri first was elected to the Elk Grove Village board of trustees, the quiet suburban town still had cornfields west of Meacham Road, an antiquated business park and residents often experiencing water rationing because of a limited supply.
Four decades later, Petri -- the longest-serving elected official in the history of Elk Grove Village -- has announced he won't seek re-election in April.
During his tenure, he's racked up more than 800 village board meetings, voted for some 2,300 ordinances, and served with three mayors and 18 trustees.
"I've had the honor and privilege to serve Elk Grove Village for 42 years," Petri said during a village board meeting Tuesday, noting two initial years on the plan commission. "I thank the people of Elk Grove Village for electing me these many years."
Petri's legacy can be seen in development of the village's infrastructure -- he still regularly drives up and down local streets to inspect them -- securing the Lake Michigan water supply for Elk Grove and other Northwest suburbs, and bringing cable television and a local community access channel to the village.
"It's those hours he's put in that we get to enjoy the benefits of his labor today," said Mayor Craig Johnson, who has been in his position for roughly half the time Petri has been on the board. "No one knows this community better than Jim. He knows it inside and out."
Petri moved to Elk Grove in 1966 for work with United Airlines, and unsuccessfully ran for trustee in 1977. Mayor Charles Zettek appointed him to the plan commission before Petri won a spot on the board two years later.
His first task was to work with the Northwest Municipal Conference to bid cable television services for the region, which resulted in awarding a contract to Continental Cablevision. He chaired a regional group of five towns to regulate cable television in the 1980s and 1990s.
Sometimes seeing things differently than other village officials earlier in his tenure, Petri ran for mayor in 1989 and 1993, but lost both times.
As co-chairman of the village's Industrial/Commercial Revitalization Commission, Petri helped shepherd some $100 million in upgrades to the six-square-mile business park, widening and adding streets, truck intrusion bays, lights, signage and water lines.
Petri, who also was chairman of the village's capital improvements committee, "knows every inch of our roads, sewer lines and water mains," Johnson said.
The village named its old public works facility on Landmeier Road for Petri in 2015, and is naming its new one being built on Devon Avenue for him.
Petri's decision not to seek re-election means it will be the first time in 22 years Elk Grove has an open seat on the village board. Trustees Nancy Czarnik, a 29-year incumbent, and Sam Lissner, a 23-year incumbent, are seeking re-election in April.