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Geneva Remembers: Janet Safanda, 1940-2012

Part 5 of a multipart series in memoriam of the many amazing people Geneva lost in 2012.

  • Part 5 of a multipart series: Janet Safanda's legacy of historic preservation lives on in Geneva.

 

Janet Safanda's name should be more than a footnote in the Geneva history books.

That's because Safanda was instrumental in the movement to preserve Geneva's historic buildings during the fast-growth period of the 1980s, and her legacy lives on in the stories of the day.

It's hard not to think of this year's movement to preserve the Pure Oil Building without remembering Janet's similar efforts to preserve the former creamery building that's now a part of the foundation of the Herrington Inn.

Back in those halcyon days, the issue of historic preservation popped up a lot in news articles. Developers were building new subdivisions, Tax Increment Financing Districts were new funding mechanisms for development and there were opportunities all over the place to tear down the old and raise the new.

Safanda was a leader of the groups who said, hey, slow down, wait a minute.

As her beautifully written obituary notes, she was a founding member of Geneva's Historic Preservation Commission, which locked horns with former Mayor Richard Lewis over a number of issues in the 1980s. She later became executive director and long-time supporter of Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley.

Until reading her obituary, I didn't realize she had such an extraordinary resume, including a career as teacher and then as a management development consultant for such big names as Andersen Consulting, Accenture, McDonald’s Corporation and Time-Warner Cable.

Nor did I know about her great love of music or her work with the Orion Ensemble.

What I did come to know as a young reporter working for The Republican, was that Janet Safanda was a steadfast champion of historic preservation who wasn't afraid of a political tussle but in her own way advocated fiercely and spoke eloquently in defense of her point of view.

Like the other Genevans in this series, she was an advocate for our community's history and a part of that history. The next time you drive through Geneva, and appreciate the architecture and the sense of history that is intrinsic to this community's charm, think of Janet Safanda and say, "thanks."

 

Rick Nagel
Geneva Patch editor
Dec. 27, 2012

 

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