Batavia council surprises mayor by naming city hall after him
Jeff Schielke is known for his devotion to his hometown of Batavia - especially his 41 years as its mayor.
And for that devotion, the Batavia City Council on Tuesday renamed the city hall as the Jeffrey D. Schielke Government Center.
Schielke was shocked by the announcement.
"Thank you for the honor," he said. "I'm very honored to be the mayor of this town."
He credited the residents of Batavia for his success, saying they have a community-minded spirit.
The high respect for Schielke was exemplified by Alderman Alan Wolff, who once ran against Schielke for mayor.
Wolff praised Schielke for his diplomacy and his leadership style.
"The entire time I've been on council, you've been able to pull all 14 of us in a way forward that didn't allow infighting. We could say what we wanted and know that we'd be heard," Wolff said. "I really admire that. You live Batavia. You are Batavia."
Schielke was first an alderman. In 1981, at age 32, he was elected mayor. After winning his 11th term in 2021, Schielke became the second-longest-serving mayor in Illinois, and the 11th-longest-serving in the United States, according to a news release from the city.
Schielke graduated from Batavia High School in 1967. He served with the Army National Guard and worked as a local newspaper reporter before becoming a real estate appraiser. He has been an auxiliary police officer, a paid-on-call firefighter, and a volunteer photographer for the fire department.
Regionally, he has served on the Pace bus board and as chairman of the Metropolitan Mayors' Caucus of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Tuesday, the council approved contracts to renovate parts of the building - including building a first-floor reception lobby and moving the utility billing office to the first floor. Security changes will prevent people from visiting city offices without an escort. It will also add a third-floor restroom for use by patrons of the Albright Theater, which rents space from the city. It will spend $2.3 million on construction and $259,000 to remove asbestos and lead paint.
The Schielke Government Center is located in a 121-year-old limestone-and-timber building that was part of the Appleton Manufacturing Co. windmill factory.
Schielke, an expert on Batavia history, again mentioned Tuesday that in the 1960s, components for the rockets that propelled Americans to the Moon were made in the former Appleton buildings.
The city bought the property in 1973, razed some of the buildings and moved city offices into the current building in the early 1980s.
"This thing really started out as the lemon we made lemonade out of. It's going to be one of the best taxpayer bargains we have ever put on the stage in Batavia," Schielke said in 2015 when the council started planning the latest renovation.