ST. CHARLES – Mayor Don DeWitte was the center of attention Wednesday night as aldermen, city staff and others paid tribute to his 20 years in public office.
Ron Onesti of the Arcada Theatre hosted the event and thanked DeWitte for his support of the iconic downtown entertainment venue.
“I hung in there because of that guy down there,” Onesti said onstage, gesturing toward DeWitte in the front row.
Photographs of DeWitte, including those of him as a kid and as mayor, were projected on either side of the stage as people took turns voicing their thanks and appreciation.
Former 2nd Ward Alderman Betsy Penny recalled her first meeting with DeWitte – he was then a young man with horn-rimmed glasses – and their time together on the St. Charles City Council. Of the three mayors she worked with, she said, she felt the freest to speak her mind with DeWitte, who always treated her with respect.
“I do believe there is no one who has put their heart and soul more into this city than Don DeWitte,” Penny said.
Longtime 4th Ward Alderman Jim Martin, who served on the council with DeWitte’s father and worked on many projects with his mother, said it should be no mystery why DeWitte served St. Charles so well.
“He inherited it,” Martin said.
Several speakers recognized DeWitte’s wife, Diane, as well.
“Thanks, Diane, for sharing Don with us for all those years,” 2nd Ward Alderman Rita Payleitner said.
Fifth Ward Aldermen Ed Bessner and Maureen Lewis said DeWitte would encourage them to vote their conscience, vote with their gut.
Lewis also read a letter from 2nd Ward Alderman Cliff Carrignan, who was unable to attend. Carrignan said DeWitte’s most visible contribution to the city is Red Gate Bridge, but his ability to keep the budget balanced without layoffs during the Great Recession was equally important.
Public Works Director Mark Koenen, who spoke on behalf of the city’s department directors, said DeWitte didn’t choose to be mayor for the power, glamour, money or prestige.
Koenen said he chose it “because of service.”
DeWitte served two terms as mayor.
He announced in the fall he wouldn’t seek a fourth term. On April 9, voters elected 3rd Ward Alderman Ray Rogina to succeed him. Rogina will be sworn into office next month.