Durbin Honors Former Normal, Illinois Mayor Carol Reitan
WASHINGTON, DC] – In a statement for the Senate record, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today honored Carol Reitan, who served as the Mayor of Normal, Illinois, from 1972 to 1976 and who passed away this week at the age of 83. Reitan was Normal’s first and only female mayor, and was viewed as a remarkable leader who had a broad, positive impact on her community. Throughout her career in public service, Reitan’s work earned her many awards, including the Normal Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1987 and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 1987.
“Carol was ahead of her time, both as the first and only female mayor of Normal and because of her foresight as a community leader. If you talk to her friends in Central Illinois, you will quickly pick up on a common set of phrases – a visionary, a mentor, and a leader.”
“I met Carol many times over the decades and was always impressed with her many gifts that she gave back to the community. She was a leader. When she walked in a room you could feel her leadership and presence.”
The full text of Senator Durbin’s remarks as prepared for delivery is below:
Remarks on the Death of Former Normal, Illinois Mayor Carol Reitan
May 15, 2014
Mr. DURBIN. If you drive into the charming, walkable town center of Normal, Illinois – yes, the town of Normal – you’ll see the beautiful Carol A. Reitan Conference Center. Who was Carol Reitan?
Carol was the mayor of the Town of Normal from 1972-1976. For those of you who have been to Normal recently, you’ll note what a forward thinking community it is – with a vibrant town center, a state university, an auto plant, and a high quality of life.
It is a twin city with its slightly larger neighbor, Bloomington, which is home to State Farm Insurance and Illinois Wesleyan University, among so many other things. The area around Bloomington-Normal is some of the best farmland in the country.
Carol Reitan, who was an early and effective community leader, passed away this week at the age of 83. But her legacy can be seen everywhere – in the people she helped and the community she served and helped prosper.
Carol was ahead of her time, both as the first and only female mayor of Normal and because of her foresight as a community leader. If you talk to her friends in Central Illinois, you will quickly pick up on a common set of phrases – a visionary, a mentor, and a leader ahead of her time. I knew Carol, and those descriptions are all true – and just the tip of the iceberg.
Her accomplishments and dedication to public service are vast and long-lasting – and certainly didn’t end after her service as mayor. As mayor of Normal from 1972-1976 she first introduced a city-manager style of government. She was the co-founder and President of Collaborative Solutions, a nonprofit providing counseling and mediation services for at-risk youth and adults. She played leadership roles in establishing the Heartland Theater Company, Habitat for Humanity of McLean County, and the Community Foundation of McLean County. She helped with the development of the domestic violence shelter Neville House. And she served as director and chief executive of Mid Central Community Action.
And her work earned many awards, including the Normal Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1987, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 1987, and a McLean County History Maker award by the McLean County Museum of History in 2014.
Carol and her husband Earl were also early visionaries when it came to the environment, starting Operation Recycle and building a solar powered home together. And she was an early supporter of the town’s electric vehicle initiative. In Normal, you can use any number of public charging stations to charge your electric car. In fact, when you look at the growing network of charging stations around the country, one of the most important is in Normal. That is no accident.
In 1990, Carol was appointed to the town’s 2015 Commission, which was to consider goals for the next 25 years. A further stroll around the vibrant town shows the results – a children’s museum, a multimodal transportation center that includes high speed rail from Chicago, an historic movie theater, shops, restaurants, a library, and a new hotel and conference center – all adjacent to Illinois State University.
I met Carol many times over the decades and was always impressed with her many gifts that she gave back to the community. She was a leader. When she walked in a room, you could feel her leadership and presence. When I first ran for office in 1978 for Illinois Lieutenant Governor, she was making her second attempt to win an Illinois State Senate seat at the same time. We both lost those races. And in 1996, when I first ran for the US Senate, she was an early supporter. I’ll never forget her faith in my candidacy.
Some on my staff have equally warm memories of Carol while growing up in Normal. One in particular is that she made a point of working with those who defeated her in her attempts to win a seat in the Illinois State Senate. We could use a bit of that role model here in the Congress today.
Perhaps current Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said it best as reported by Central Illinois radio station WJBC, noting “She was a visionary, probably born before her time because she was thinking about things 20 and 30 years ago that are happening in Normal now….She had an impact on this community – and I use that term broadly – Bloomington, Normal and McLean County….Few others have had that ability and few others could rival.”
Central Illinois has lost someone truly special this week. My prayers and thoughts go out to her husband Earl, daughter Julie, and son Tom
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