On Saturday, May 13 there will be an open house from 2 -5 PM at the Athletic Club in Herscher to honor John Branz and Bob Voss who are retiring as trustees on the Herscher Village board. Their combined experience on the board is 52 years.
That is 52 years of meetings, complaints, conflicts, and resolutions; 52 years of putting the well-being of Herscher and its citizens as one of the top priorities in their lives.
John Branz has been a Village Trustee and Finance Chairman for 30 years. He was appointed by Mayor Ray Schneider in 1993.
Branz has served with five mayors, five village clerks and numerous members of the village board. He has learned to work with many different personalities in order to ensure the best interest of the village and to keep moving the village forward.
Bob Voss has shared 22 of those years with Branz on the Village Board. Voss was appointed by Mayor Bill Carnahan in 2001.
Voss shares, “All these years being a Village Trustee, I have been surrounded by Mayors Carnahan, Schneider, and Sweeney, the Village Board, our Public Works employees and Al Deany from Andrews Engineering (our Village engineer). That has been a great group of people to be associated with and we accomplished many projects.”
Branz shares that he has enjoyed working with the office staff in the Village Hall. “It has been an honor and a privilege to be on the Village Board for 30 years. We have worked through a lot of projects that have been good for Herscher.”
When asked about the major accomplishments during their tenure, both men agree that the new water tower was very important. Branz responds, “Probably the one major accomplishment was the village being able to receive an Illinois First grant for $1 million which we used to erect a new 300,000 gallon water tower and make major water main improvements in the village in 2004.”
For Branz, the establishment of a village hall was a big accomplishment. For some time, the board had worked in the room that is now the police department.
During his tenure on the board, Branz highlights the addition of Leiser and Willow Streets, and the development of the Park Place subdivision. Harvest View (currently Courtyard Estates) was also established.
Other improvements have been, according to Branz, “Working with the County of Kankakee over a period of three fiscal years, Park Road was improved with curbs, gutters, and overlay. Updating the zoning regulations took place in 1997. We reviewed and updated many village ordinances. A comprehensive plan update was completed in 2007, using funds from a state grant and village funds, where we replaced the street lights in the downtown district.”
Branz continues, “We saw upgrades to our accounting software and our water billing software. We did overlay on many of our streets and saw housing growth in Herscher. The board worked diligently through three census years 2000, 2010, and 2020 to get an accurate count of the village. The village of Herscher‘s population grew by 30% during this period.”
Voss notes that wide streets, curbs and gutters make a big difference in the town’s appearance as do the well-maintained parks.
In addition, the Rt. 115 business corridor has been expanded to include several new businesses and the newest downtown improvement project is underway.
In May of 2020, Herscher was inundated with rain. Voss recalls, “That was one of the worst things that happened during my years. That year we got 11 ½” of rain in May. The rainfall caused major flooding along Horse Creek in the northeast side of town. Sand bagging of homes and flooded basements was common, In order to alleviate future flooding, the Village had Horse Creek cleaned from the 3000S Road to the railroad tracks. Trees, vegetation, debris, and silt were removed.”
Branz adds, “Following the severe flooding that occurred in May 2020, the village contracted the removal of dirt sediment from Horse Creek. That same flooding event caused severe damage to Storage Tank #3 at the sewer plant, which has since been repaired. And, just the past few years, we have put all new softeners and iron filters in the water plant, added new generators at the water plant and wells.”
The village did a major water main improvement project last year on N. Oak St., and, in the new fiscal year, will be doing one more for Maple Street.
Although many improvements were completed, one thing that Voss wishes could have been accomplished during his time as a trustee is the construction of a public works building. That accomplishment will be left for someone else to do.
Voss shares, “My wife Jackie and I have been married tor 50 years. For a lot of years now, I have been going to a lot of meetings, choir practice etc. and most nights there has been something to attend. Jackie has been supportive of me all these years, but she tells me it is time to slow down. So maybe I will. But I have enjoyed being part of so many organizations.”
Voss still remains involved in the Herscher Area Historical Society, the Kankakee County Historical Society (President), the Council of Churches, and is a Herscher United Methodist Church Trustee.
Branz continues to be active in the community as the Finance Chairman for the Herscher United Methodist Church, and is the Republican Committeeman for Pilot Township. He is looking forward to spending more time with his wife also.
Branz has been married almost 49 years. He states, “With my wife Margo’s support through all the years I have served on the village board and through all the organizations I have been involved in, it has meant a great deal to me. She gave up a lot of hours to my participation in the Village and community organizations. We are both people that believed in being involved in our community and in our county.”
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