O'Fallon Progress

He served his community for 21 years. Now it’s time for diversity, he says.

Mike Bennett
Mike Bennett

For the last 21 years, Mike Bennett has served the residents of O’Fallon as an alderman.

On Monday night, Bennett attended his last meeting. He resigned his Ward 5 alderman position. Bennett is moving to Collinsville with his financee, who he will wed in just two weeks.

Mayor Gary Graham said Bennett has done a “great job” serving the city, and he and his “dry humor and wit” will be missed.

“We do really appreciate your public service,” Graham said.

Graham and Bennett were both elected as alderman in 1995.

“I even had brown hair when I started,” Bennett said. “I’ve made more friends than I lost and have more good memories than bad.”

Bennett, 54, recalled his three boys were 5, 3 and 1 years old when he first began his service to the city, and how they would wear “alderkids” T-shirts during city parades.

“They are my legacy. If I’m remembered, it would be for whatever they do,” he said.

He served 7,813 days on the council, he said, attending more than 500 City Council meetings and numerous committee meetings.

I might have only been a small fish in a small pond, but I got in the pond.

Mike Bennett, who resigned as Ward 5 alderman in O’Fallon

“It sure has made me proud,” Bennett said. “What’s happened here in O’Fallon over the last 21 years is nothing short of amazing. ... I can’t imagine there’s many cities across the country that can match the run we had.”

He had high praise for the city staff and the mayor. “This town wouldn’t be where it is right now without his drive and his vision,” Bennett said.

Graham’s response: “A mayor is only as good as his council.”

Bennett also praised the city for keeping its salaries down for aldermen. “I hope that continues,” he said.

The full City Council and audience members gave Bennett a standing ovation not once, but twice at Monday’s meeting.

Bennett said he is looking forward to marrying the love of his life in two weeks and starting a new chapter. He said he would like to see more diversity on the City Council, which is currently made up of mostly men.

“We’ve got good people, but you need different opinions,” Bennett said. “It would be fantastic to have more women involved and more different races and religions. ... But they can’t be elected if they don’t run so people have to get up and get involved.”

In the future, he hopes school district consolidation moves forward and perhaps even city consolidation.

“I might have only been a small fish in a small pond but I got in the pond,” he said.

He encourages others to get involved. “Fifteen to 20 percent of the people in town are what do 100 percent of what gets done,” he said. “I wish that number was higher. It would be great if we had more involvement.”

In other business, the council accepted a $2,100 grant from Waste Management for the city’s recycling program.

Aldermen also approved the following at Monday’s meeting:

▪  An agreement with The Fource Group, LLC, which is based in O’Fallon, for providing services to establish Partners in the Park Sponsorship Program. According to a memo to aldermen, this “provides an opportunity to raise non-tax revenue” for the Parks and Recreation Department. The memo stated the amount to be raised is not known as it depends on how many sponsorships are obtained.

▪  An emergency ordinance to establish a new beginning date for the establishment and imposition of certain business district taxes in the Route 50/Scott-Troy Road Business District. The taxes were slated to begin being collected on Jan. 1, 2016, but could not as no known business address existed yet. Now, the taxes will begin on Jan. 1, and last for 23 years.

After a short executive session, O’Fallon aldermen voted unanimously not to purchase property discussed in closed session. The address of the property was not provided during the public portion of the meeting.

Jamie Forsythe: 618-239-2562, @BND_JForsythe