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Photo by Frank Prager
Mayor Hal Patton points out the Wildey Theatre as an example of citizen involvement in supporting local projects and growth.
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Photo by Frank Prager
The new SIUE fire station under construction in Edwardsville is estimated to cut 6 to 7 minutes off emergency response times.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of the Making a Difference series focusing on the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon area.
EDWARDSVILLE — When Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton took office in 2013, he brought with him a long history of public service to the community, a deep familiarity with the city and practical experience as a successful businessman.
Patton was born and raised in Edwardsville. Prior to his term as mayor, he served 6 years on the Edwardsville City Council and 10 years on the Madison County Board. He is the fourth generation of his family to live in this area. His grandfather served as an alderman for the city over the course of 5 decades.
Patton’s local dental practice gave him not only real-world professional experience in the city but also allowed him to get feedback about the area from a long list of patients.
“I’ve had the opportunity to listen to 3,000 patients over the years,” he says. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from them on the city.”
When asked about his motivation for seeking the office of mayor, Patton talks about the noteworthy leadership he has seen in the area that inspired him over the years.
“People like Evelyn Bowles, Sam Vadalabene and Bill Haine have been impressive leaders,” he explains.
As mayor of a city with a population of more than 26,000, Patton is enthusiastic about the expansion it has seen over the years and the potential for continued success in the future. Edwardsville has realized remarkable growth over recent decades with improvements to the downtown area as well as growth in business with the Edwardsville Crossing commercial district and the Gateway Commerce Center.
“I get excited when I see the number of jobs being created in the area,” he says. “People love it here. There is a positive energy and word gets around that there are good jobs here.”
Patton says the quarter cent sales tax passed during his term has allowed services to be grown and maintained without any additional city property taxes.
“A resident with a $150,000 house pays $603 a year in property taxes,” he points out. “That pays for fire protection, police, parks, roads, water, sewer and other services.”
He says the diversity of business helps support the overall economic business model.
Patton is quick to share credit for the success the city is realizing.
“The work of the city council has been instrumental in what is being accomplished,” he says.
He also says he cannot overemphasize the quality of the 155 city employees.
“They are people who are hard-working, intelligent and great communicators,” he says. “They are always willing to step in and find a solution to a problem for a resident.”
Patton says he has long held the philosophy that a city is only as strong as its weakest link.
“If you need road improvements or are lacking sidewalks, it needs to be addressed,” he says.
He says every time the city makes these types of improvements, residents respond by improving their own property and thereby improving the quality of the overall community.
The mayor holds public safety as a top priority and has worked toward improvements in that area. His administration passed a safe housing program that has initiated annual inspections of rental properties. He says the inspections have eliminated many safety issues associated with the housing.
“It has resulted in a cleaner, nicer, more responsible community in these areas,” he says.
A new fire station is being built at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville that Patton sees as important to the city’s overall safety.
“It will provide quick response to any emergencies on the SIUE campus as well as cut 6 to 7 minutes off of the response time to the Gateway Commerce Center,” he explains.
The list of activities completed during his administration includes simplifying the boundary line between Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, establishment of the District 7 mayor’s meeting and the Spring Board program, which provides parents of new SIUE students an overview of the city and gives them a tour of the area. In addition, a special census conducted by Patton’s administration resulted in additional state and federal tax dollars.
A major city project under way is the A Better Place To Play initiative. Patton says it resulted from the fact that many people in the area recognized the need for a local recreational and sports park.
The project’s first phase opened this month and includes a fitness trail, a large playground and a splash park. Future phases will include a 70-acre sport park with baseball diamonds, soccer fields and outdoor tennis courts. Grant requests are also in the works to build an ice rink at the facility.
Patton emphasizes the area’s success is due in no small measure to the work of volunteers and community participation.
“When you look at things like the Stephenson House, the Children’s Museum, the Watershed Nature Center and the Wildey Theatre, each is supported by a passionate board and people from the community,” he says.
Edwardsville continues to grow in terms of both business and culture with improvements and expansion such as the move of the Prairie Farms company headquarters to the Interstate 55 and Illinois 143 corridor and the opening of the Manny Jackson Center For The Humanities in the north part of the town.
The mayor sees quality growth as the roadmap for the future.
“The city is growing because people like to live here,” he says.