“Have you ever thought about what it is that makes Highland so special?” asked George Jones, owner of Rural King in Highland, as he addressed the crowd at the Highland Chamber of Commerce’s annual Membership Dinner and Awards Night on Tuesday. “I think it comes down to the people who live here. People that will work to keep Highland a safe, desirable place to live, people who will volunteer their time, and when the need arises, are willing to provide leadership to help guide Highland into the future.
“And Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis fit the bill with all these things and more,” said Jones, who presented the mayor with the chamber’s Bob Hardy Citizen of the Year award, which is named after the longtime KMOX broadcaster.
“To say I’m honored and humbled would be an understatement,” Michaelis said. “Highland is a special, extraordinary, great community to live in there are so many citizens that are so deserving of this award I am truly honored. Thank you.”
After graduating from Highland High School and Southern Illinois University, Michaelis attended police training in Champaign. He then spent 30 years as a police officer in Highland, and served as police chief for two years.
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“In addition to giving so much of his time to help keep Highland a safe place to live, he found time to volunteer with our youth, serving many years as a volunteer coach for the Highland High school wrestling program, Khoury League baseball and Highland High School track program. He also served for many years as a coach for the Highland High School freshman football program,” Jones said.
In addition to serving as mayor since 2005, Michaelis is also a member of the Highland Rotary Club, the Highland Moose Lodge, the Highland Masonic Temple (3rd degree Mason), the Highland Historical Society and the Southern Illinois Mayors Association.
And he has kept meeting his duties while dealing with hard personal setbacks. He worked tirelessly to learn to walk again after breaking his back and neck during a fall down the basement stairs at his home in January 2015. Six months later, his wife Ethel passed away.
“Joe continues to serve our town with his leadership and volunteering,” Jones said. “He has also been a role model in handling adversity, as he persevered through a difficult injury, and through faith and hard work returned to work for Highland just as hard as ever, in all ways exemplifying just how much one citizen can do for their town.”
“Well, I’m truly humbled and honored to receive the Bob Hardy Award,” Michaelis said. “I think everybody in Highland knows Bob and Rita, who has passed, also. It was an honor to have Bob and Rita’s daughter and her husband here tonight.”
Sandy Hardy Chinn and her husband, Glen Chinn, were in the audience to watch Michaelis receive his award.