- Editor's note: I'm on vacation this week. So I wrote seven essays in advance to keep the conversation lively. The series is expected to play out at 10 a.m. each day, from March 26 to (appropriately) April 1.
Steve LeMaire is one of the members of my Geneva High School graduating class of 1975.
As you've seen in plenty of headlines, he's also the former Geneva streets superintendent who has been charged by a grand jury of bilking the city of more than $24,000 through purchases he made with his city of Geneva credit card.
LeMaire has pleaded not guilty, and as this is written, the court case continues, with a next hearing scheduled for April 19.
I didn't hang out with Steve in middle school or high school. But I knew him, and I liked him. He seemed easy-going and affable. In middle school, he was on the cusp of the popular crowd—at least, as I remember it after all these years—but he didn't seem aloof or "stuck up," in the vernacular of a seventh- or eighth-grader in the early 1970s.
I admired his basketball skills. He was my size, small and slim, and in sixth grade he might have risen to sixth or seventh man, coming off the bench and delivering solid minutes. He was a good outside shooter and often made up in hustle what he lacked in height, speed or athleticism.
I don't remember much about his high school days. There's not a lot in the yearbook except his senior picture and a short list of extracurriculars, like "Basketball 1-4" and a couple non sequiturs that I think must have been a misprint. (Softball 3-4?)
Steve worked for 33 years with the city of Geneva. He rose through the ranks of the Public Works Department and clearly was good enough at his job to be promoted to the point where he reached the top spot.
As a reporter covering Geneva City Council meetings for the past year-and-a-half, it was clear to me that he was good at his job. His presentations to the City Council were detailed, professional and supported by solid research and expertise. He was open to suggestions, showed confidence and poise in front of the City Hall cameras and answered questions with the same affable nature I remembered from our school years.
When he had to stand before a big audience at City Hall and explain the city's difficult position regarding the Emerald Ash Borer—that his recommendation was to remove the trees rather than spending a lot of money to save them—he held up as well as any department head could. He explained, he listened, but he also defended and stood by his professional opinion.
I was proud of him, to be honest. I thought he represented the Class of 1975 well. And like everyone else I've talked to, I was shocked and saddened when the allegations of theft came forward.
I can't do much more than echo the sentiment I've heard people repeat over and over in off-the-record conversations—that it's a shame to throw away a career, that he has no one to blame but himself and that his family must be suffering, not only for the loss of income but for the public nature of the indictment and trial.
It's impossible to say why someone might do the things that Steve is charged with doing, but it's difficult to keep the mind from wondering. Would it be the sheer joy of the risk involved? A gambling addiction? Money owed elsewhere? The simple feeling of entitlement for hard work and personal enterprise?
It's incumbent on me to repeat and underline that Steve LeMaire has not been found guilty of any of these charges. Who knows? Maybe there will be some revelation that changes this perspective.
But if the outcome of the trial confirms any or all of the charges against him, I'm sure there will be some measure of remorse.
And the certain knowledge that the story of my high school classmate's 33 years of service to Geneva should have had so much happier an ending.