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Council Quick Story: Bob Piper's Legacy Might Very Well Be a Better-Informed Geneva

Inside Geneva: After almost eight years on the City Council, 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Piper bids a fond farewell to public office. Among his contributions is a hard push to get Channel 10's TV coverage of Geneva City Council meetings.

After the meeting, I asked Bob Piper about his legacy. What was the thing that he was most proud of after almost eight years serving as alderman of the 2nd Ward.

And his answer surprised me.

"I worked hard with Mary (McKittrick) to get us on TV," he said. "I did. From Day One, that's what I thought. I knew we could bring this into everybody's home where people could watch it, people could see it. Because other communities had it, and they were watching.

"Then (when it became reality) I'd go to the gym and see other people on the treadmill watching (the council meeting on Channel 10), and I'd just laugh to myself, thinking, 'People are really watching this!' And they do. People are fascinated by it. They read a part of it in the paper, they catch a little here and a little there. But when you really watch it and really listen to what's going on, you catch all the nuances. It's gotten a lot more people involved, and they have a really good idea about what's going on in their community.

"That's not all me," he said. "But it was a push from Day One when I got here."

McKittrick is, of course, Geneva's city administrator. And Piper is retiring from public office. He moved from the 2nd Ward after his divorce back in May, and he hasn't found a residence in the 2nd Ward since then, so he announced two weeks ago that he would resign. Monday night was his last council meeting.

If the procedure is the same as it has been in the past, Mayor Kevin Burns will have an opportunity to appoint an interim alderman for the balance of Piper's term, assuming his appointment wins the approval of the City Council.

On Monday night, aldermen vetted Piper with the usual friendly barbs and complimented him repeatedly with sincere words of appreciation for his years of service. It was a fitting tribute to the alderman, who was known for his frank commentary, quick wit, sense of humor and common sense.

"It was a great experience," Piper said after the meeting. "It was a great learning experience. I came in knowing very little, and you learn very quickly. It was fantastic. This (City Council) is a great cross-section of the community. Very few people like to get involved at this level. I mean, a lot of these (aldermanic) spots go unopposed, which is unfortunate. But the folks who get in here, they care about what goes on. They are very passionate about it. So there are some really good-quality conversations going on.

"You know, you do the best you can," he said. "Everybody treats it like it's their own checkbook, and I think that's why our budgets are the way they are. We're doing a good job. When you really dig through it, we've saved an enormous amount of money. We're in such better shape than the state is. They could learn a hell of a lot from what we're doing here. The staff is excellent, and as much disfunction as you may think is going on, everybody works together really well."

Will Piper seek public office again soon?

"I'm not even thinking abou that right now," he said. "It's been a long time, and life's changed. I'm so busy right now that, this is fine. Things are good right now. It is what it is."

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