Gary Graham is hitting the door after nearly 20 years as O’Fallon mayor.
By most measures it has been an impressive run. Graham predicts the next decade will be better.
“We will be the largest city in 15 years in St. Clair County,” he said.
Interesting, considering which city is largest now. And which city originally didn’t want Interstate 64. And which city saw its car dealers move. And which city saw one of its hospitals open a second facility and the other one move to O’Fallon.
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O’Fallon has done an impressive job during Graham’s tenure. The city of 29,000 residents with a median household income of $79,800 has leveraged multiple interstate interchanges into sales taxes of $7.7 million of their $17.8 million general fund. Location, location, location.
Belleville’s population of 42,000 has a median household income of $46,500 and generated $6.5 million in sales taxes for its general fund of $28 million.
Twenty years ago, when Graham started, O’Fallon had about one-third fewer people than now. Belleville has held steady, but made major investmnts in its downtown as well as outlying areas that likely saved it from a much drearier present and give it a more promising future.
Still, measuring O’Fallon by what Belleville has either lost or has had to chase to stay even is not the best measure. Each has nearly as many mutual interests as competing interests, especially when it comes to our region’s top employer and economic engine — Scott Air Force Base.
Rising tides, you know.
So the community owes Graham significant gratitude for his service and leadership. It also has an obligation to choose wisely when replacing him.
His guidance for his replacement: “If you just worry about the political side, you are not going to get anything done. You are always going to make people mad.”
That may be, but ignoring the ire may leave legitimate ideas and needs wanting. It’s easier to get on board with his second piece of advice, regardless of your city of residence.
“The big thing is doing and making the city great for the residents, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”