'It will always be my home': Weppler's time as Libertyville mayor comes to a close
A new era for the Libertyville village board will begin Tuesday night, when four members, including 12-year Mayor Terry Weppler and two trustees elected with him in 2009, step aside.
Trustee Donna Johnson, who joined the village board in 2007, will be sworn in as mayor during a special meeting at the Libertyville Civic Center. Three new trustees will be sworn in as well.
No business will be conducted, and the oaths will be sandwiched between meetings of the sitting and new boards -- the first in-person board sessions since March 10, 2020. The meetings also will be shown online at libertyville.com.
Johnson and the three newcomers -- Dan Love, Matthew Hickey and Matthew Krummick -- ran unopposed in the April election. With Johnson's shift to mayor, her spot will need to be filled, meaning occupants of five of the seven board seats will change.
Because of that, there will be virtually no learning curve for newcomers as they navigate a huge loss of institutional knowledge. But Weppler says residents have no need to worry.
"We wanted to make sure we got people on who ran because they care about the community and were not one-issue people," said Weppler, a retired attorney and lifelong resident.
Johnson refers to him as "Mr. Libertyville."
"Your heart and spirit definitely exemplifies Libertyville. You're never off duty," she said during the group's last meeting.
Weppler has been heavily involved in many organizations over the decades and even had a previous stint on the village board as trustee, from 1979 to 1985.
A former public safety officer in Glencoe, Weppler in 1991 opened a law office specializing in real estate and zoning issues. He subsequently made many appearances before the village board on behalf of clients.
He again sought public office in 2009, when he ran for mayor in the first contested election for the top spot in 20 years. He was swept into office on a message of dissatisfaction over a lack of responsiveness from village officials.
Running mates Jay Justice and Rich Moras also have served 12 years. A third running mate, Todd Gaines, resigned in 2016 and was replaced by former Police Chief Pat Carey. Carey was elected to another term but didn't seek reelection this year.
There have been plenty of feel-good moments over 12 years, including the opening of new Metra station, the construction of a second parking deck downtown and the creation of a parks master plan.
But one of the most notable keepsakes in Weppler's village hall office was a photo of the July 2017 flood that inundated hundreds of homes. The scene illustrated what became a mission for Weppler and village trustees.
At the time, a master stormwater plan had just been commissioned. Years of effort followed. Beginning Sept. 1, a fee to fund an estimated $53 million in projects to address local flooding goes into effect.
"That is important," said Weppler, whose term began with the Great Recession and is ending with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flood mitigation is among the measures, including a $20 million program to fix roads and a 1% non-home-rule sales tax approved by voters, the village has pursued during Weppler's tenure to address financial issues and maintain and improve services.
"I think the fact we were able to leave the village in very good financial condition was important to us," he said.
"It helps we've been able to justify it," Weppler added. "The residents have appreciated we've been judicious with our dollars."
A local history buff, Weppler said keeping the "feel of downtown" has been important, and that volunteers have been an integral part of that goal.
"Ninety-nine percent of what I did was not (dealing with) complaints -- it was people interested in the community, and I loved working with them," he said.
Weppler said he'll remain involved, and a rumor he's moving out of town is unfounded.
"I grew up here. It's my home. It will always be my home," he said.