Jim Hanson named Batavia Citizen of the Year
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media December 25, 2013 8:16PM
Updated: January 27, 2014 11:57AM
BATAVIA — Jim Hanson was an alderman in the 1960s when a Fox River channel was flowing through the downtown and city fathers were on the cusp of following through with a vision.
This week, Hanson was named the 2013 Batavia Citizen of the Year for being “a caregiver of Batavia on so many fronts and a phenomenally positive force,” according to a release.
“I am rather overwhelmed,” the lifelong Batavian said.
The Batavia Chamber of Commerce will honor Hanson on Jan. 31 at an annual gala that began in 1958 solely for the purpose of recognizing the lifetime contributions of members of the community.
Hanson, 88, was elected an alderman in 1961 and had a crucial role in the redevelopment of the heart of the downtown as chairman of the City Council planning, zoning and annexation committee.
Hanson had a long career in education, which included a temporary leave to accept a teaching position in Florida, where he met his wife Dorothy Watson. The couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Friday. Their two sons, John and Mark, live with their families in Texas and New York.
Hanson taught junior high school history and math in the West Aurora school system and retired after three terms as Kane County Regional Superintendent of Schools.
Hanson said he feels the same way about his hometown as he did decades ago.
“Batavia is a friendly place to live and raise a family,” he said. “People have a general respect for one another. That is important for a town.”
During Hanson’s 16-year tenure on the Batavia City Council, the land on what is now the Batavia Plaza on West Wilson Street was developed for commercial buildings.
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke describes him as “one of the moving forces” in the initial redevelopment of the downtown when factories were being razed, the river channel was filled in and commercial buildings were being built.
“Jim worked diligently to not only develop Batavia, but also was the conscious of the council,” Schielke said. “He was one of the key forces in the original redevelopment of the downtown, an area that was basically old factory buildings.”
The mayor said the City Council at the same time had the vision to annex and zone land on the city’s northeast side, which later would become an industrial park and residential subdivisions.
“Batavia zoned about 1,358 acres of land and extended utilities on what were farm fields. Today, there are 85 industries that add to the tax base and thousands of jobs,” Schielke said.
Hanson said the city’s housing ordinance that was developed in the 1960s to address discrimination and segregation likely was the most notable achievement of the City Council then.
Hanson has also been an active volunteer historian, with both he and his wife serving as past presidents of the Batavia Historical Society and he still volunteers once a month at the Batavia Depot Museum. He’s also volunteered his time for the Calvary Episcopal Church, the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels program that serves the elderly.
This year’s Batavia Citizen of the Year awards night, titled “Inspire 2014: A Celebration of Those Who Inspire Us,” will be held in the Commons Auditorium, 700 W. Fabyan Parkway in Batavia. For information, visit www.bataviachamber.org or call 630-879-7134.