Go figure, Dec. 13, 2017

Go figure, Dec. 13, 2017


Percentage of Cisco residents who serve as volunteer firefighters in the tiny Piatt County village.

"For a small-town department, I'm pretty proud of that," says RON WEISHAAR (right), who will retire at year's end from a department he has been a part of for 36 years, the past 20 as chief.

Weishaar is a local legend in the town of 257. Among the changes he made to counter what he calls "the aging out" of many fire departments: the introduction a decade ago of a cadet system, allowing those under 21 years old to serve. The only restrictions: They can't answer calls on the interstate or go into buildings that have active fires.

"Twenty years in a position like this is long enough," Weishaar told our STEVE HOFFMAN, editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican. "It's time other people get broken in, and I've tried to do my best to get other people prepared for that."

Stepping into the job will be MATT WILHELM, a Cisco firefighter since 2006.

6 of 11

Champaign County judges who have been replaced the past two-and-a-half years — with a seventh change (caused by the March 2, 2018, retirement of 21-year judge MICHAEL JONES) still to come.

For the third straight year, 2017 brought two new name plates to courthouse chambers in Urbana, after the retirements of BRIAN McPHETERS on Monday (right; he has been succeeded by ANNA BENJAMIN) and HOLLY CLEMONS in July (ADAM DILL).

In 2016, ARNOLD BLOCKMAN and HARRY CLEM hung up their robes, making way for ROGER WEBBER and RANDY ROSENBAUM. The year before, the retirement of CHASE LEONHARD freed up a spot for BRETT OLMSTEAD, and the ouster of RICHARD KLAUS meant an opportunity for RONDA HOLLIMAN.

The experience gap between the six newcomers and Champaign County's veteran judges is a wide one — JEFF FORD has been on the bench for 32 years; TOM DIFANIS, 22; HEIDI LADD, 18; and JOHN KENNEDY, 16.


Police officers that would be patrolling local public schools if it were up to community activist IMANI BAZZELL (right).

Of the dozens of recommendations listed in last month's 68-page report by the Champaign County Racial Justice Task Force, Bazzell was particularly intrigued by one proposed by an interviewee: to "retire the School Resource Officer program, hire behavioral specialists and add restorative justice to support healthy adolescent development and success in school and in life."

Bazzell tells us: "As someone deeply involved in rejecting the adoption and implementation of the School Resource Officer program while it was being considered, I will share our concerns that the mere existence of officers in the school setting criminalizes our young people, re-imagines our schools as extensions of law enforcement, and demands police officers function as pseudo social workers and behavioral specialists instead of respecting and using professionals for that purpose. It is not fair to police officers, school personnel and students and their families."

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