BATAVIA – Former Batavia alderman Jim Hanson, 88, will be honored by the Batavia Chamber of Commerce as the city's Citizen of the Year.
Roger Breisch, executive director of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, said Hanson's "lifetime of commitment" is what makes him stand out.
"It's humbling to see all things he's done," Breisch said. "And to meet him – he's the kindest, most humble, most generous person."
Hanson will be honored Jan. 31 at the chamber's annual awards event, "Inspire 2014: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us!" That event will be held at the Commons Auditorium at The Holmstad, 700 W. Fabyan Parkway, Batavia. For information, register at www.bataviachamber.org or call 630-879-7134.
Hanson was elected as an alderman in 1961 and served as the chair of what then was known as the planning, zoning and annexation committee, the release stated. During his 16 years in his tenure, downtown Batavia Plaza came into being, and land was acquired north of Wilson Street for additional development.
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said Hanson was one of the driving forces of the original move to renovate and revitalize downtown Batavia. He said it was during Hanson's tenure on the City Council that a lot of old factory buildings were torn down, and he helped redevelop the area where Panera Bread and Walgreen's are now located on Wilson Street.
"He was also very instrumental with the arrival of Fermilab in the area in the 1968 and 1967 time frame," Schielke said. "He's a great choice. Talk about somebody who's a giving citizen."
While on the City Council, Hanson also worked on an open housing ordinance that fought discrimination and segregation to ensure fair housing, according to a news release from the chamber. He was instrumental in helping provide the Muslim community with a meeting place 30 years ago. The Muslim community continues to meet at Calvary Church today, states the release.
"He wanted to make sure fair housing had some teeth to it, and his willingness to welcome the Muslim community to the Calvary" are examples of that, Breisch said.
The Batavia Citizen of the Year is selected by a committee of previous recipients of the award and is based on nominations from the community. The award is given for extraordinary contributions to the community over the course of the recipient’s lifetime.
Breisch said when previous Citizen of the Year Award recipients heard Hanson's name on the nominee list, they all seemed to know who Hanson was, despite Hanson's public sector work being long behind him.
"Most of his recent activity is very quiet and behind-the-scenes," Breisch said. "When I got this group together, they all knew Jim Hanson."
In addition to his work on the Batavia City Council, Hanson continues to volunteer each month at the Batavia Depot Museum, according to the news release. He was involved with R.S.V.P. and resigned from the board last spring. Hanson worked as a teacher in the West Aurora School District and also served three terms as the Kane County regional school superintendent.