After almost 13 years of living in rural Champaign County, former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar has moved back to Springfield. But he'll remain an instructor at the University of Illinois and a member of the UI's Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
"The folks in Champaign County have just been super since we've been there. They couldn't have been nicer. And we've really enjoyed our time there," Edgar said Monday. "It's not that we didn't enjoy Champaign. It's just that Springfield, this is where we moved right after I got out of college and we kinda grew up here and raised our kids here and it's just something that we always thought we'd come back.
"After I left the governorship (in January 1999) I knew I had to get out of town. The last thing the new governor (George Ryan) needed was the old governor sitting in town so it's been a 12- or 13-year self-imposed exile and I figured that was long enough. Plus, we weren't sure that we'd sell our house and we did."
The former governor and his wife Brenda lived on an 8-acre property along the Sangamon River in rural Seymour. They sold it recently and moved last Thursday to their new home on Springfield's west side.
"We knew we didn't need eight acres any more and we always had to run into Mahomet or Champaign for things. We're a lot closer to things here," he said. "We knew no matter where we moved that we'd probably eventually come back to Springfield. I've got a farm over here west of town with someone else that I keep horses on. I can be closer to that now."
He isn't returning to Springfield to get back into politics, he insisted.
"No, no, no," he said.
Edgar, 65, plans at stay at the UI and will be back frequently to the Urbana campus.
"We'll still get over there. I'll be over two or three days a week doing classes," he explained. "I go into different classes and lecture. It's all over the system. This week, for example, I'm speaking to a class over here in Springfield on Wednesday. And Thursday and Friday I'm back in Urbana speaking to a public health class on Thursday and on Friday I think I have a political science class and two journalism classes and I think I have maybe three meetings.
"The classes I go to, it's all over campus. The majority probably aren't in political science. In the public health class, I'll talk about health issues and the politics of public health issues. But I go over to the law school and the business school too."
He said he enjoys lecturing because "every day it's a different class and a different topic. The only thing I worry about is that some students may have heard me before and they'll know all of my jokes."
It's good to be around young people, he said.
"When I was governor, I was a little removed from being around young people that much. I used to wonder what that next generation was like," he said. "But in my 12 years at the University of Illinois, I tell people I'm much more optimistic about the future being around these young people. They're smart and very pragmatic, probably more pragmatic than we probably were. Unfortunately they don't view government and politics as the way to solve problems. I keep telling them that they need to get involved and at least to become an informed voter. Whether they like it or not, that's the way to get things done."
This is the fourth time the Edgars have moved to Springfield, said the ex-governor.
"People forget we spent most of our adult lives in Springfield except for 12 years in Champaign County and three or four years in Coles County when I was a legislator," he said. "I think I added up that we have lived in Springfield for 25 to 27 years."