Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

November 30, 2012

Longtime Effingham County officials say farewell

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Effingham County Board member Bob Shields is going to spend more time at his “day job.”

    State’s Attorney Ed Deters is going to try his hand at private practice.

    And Larry Vahling, another County Board member, is moving to Florida.

    Shields, Deters and Vahling were among seven Effingham County officials honored for a combined 98 years of service during a Thursday afternoon reception at the Effingham County Office Building. Also departing are County Board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg, District A board member Wayne Russell, Circuit Clerk Becky Jansen and Coroner Leigh Hammer.

    All had been elected at least once except for Russell, who served out the term of former District A rep Jim Reeves, who moved out of the area for business reasons. Russell said at the time he would not be seeking a full term.

    Shields is leaving the County Board after 30 years. The Beecher City resident was first elected to the board at age 26 in 1982, but chose not to seek another term this year.

    Instead of going to endless meetings, Shields is looking forward to spending more time with wife Brenda — who he married the same year he was elected to the board — and their grandchildren.

    “It went by pretty fast,” Shields said. “But I’m sure my boss is going to like having me around full time.”

    Shields has been on the local radio scene longer than he has been on the board. He is presently employed as an advertising representative with the Cromwell Radio Group, owners of WCRC and WCRA.

    “I’ll miss 99 percent of this,” he said. “I love local government, but I just thought 30 years was enough.”

    Willenburg, who was first elected to the County Board in 2000 after many years on the Altamont Unit 10 Board of Education, said she’s going to enjoy retirement with husband Wayne on the family farm west of Mason, especially since the couple’s son and nephew do most of the farming nowadays.

    “It will be nice to stay at home more instead of having to go to meetings all the time,” she said.

    Vahling, who was on the board 10 years after 37 years with the Illinois Department of Transportation, said he and wife Kay plan to spend one more Christmas in their Teutopolis home before moving to Kissimmee, Fla., where the couple has bought a home.

    “I’ve never really retired before now,” Vahling said. He spent two years as a part-time bailiff before being appointed to the District I seat in 2002.

    Deters may be making the most interesting career change. After nearly 20 years as a prosecutor, including the last 12 as state’s attorney, Deters is joining a downtown Effingham law firm with attorneys Kirsten Osteen, Chad Chojnicki and David McDevitt.

    Not only has Deters never been involved in a private practice, but he has never sat at the defense table.

    “I hope to do a fair amount of criminal work, but I’d like to work in some other areas of the law, as well,” he said. “I look forward to it, because I’ve never done it.

    “But I hope I’ve picked up a few things from the other side of the room that will help me.”

    Deters said he will certainly miss working as state’s attorney.

    “It was a good run,” he said. “I really enjoyed working with everyone, and it’s been an honor serving the citizens of Effingham County.”

    Hammer, who served nine years as coroner, will be facility administrator at the DaVita Dialysis Center in Effingham. She is looking forward to not being connected to a pager 24-7.

    “I’m passionate about the (coroner) job and its responsibilities, but all (younger son) Liam has ever known is that Mom has a pager and has to leave at weird times.

    “Every decision centered around the job, whether it was when to take a vacation or even go out of town for a few hours.”

    Hammer said she is looking forward to more time with husband Jim and their three children.

    Jansen’s situation is different than the other departing officeholders in that she did not choose to leave. Instead, she was defeated in the March Democratic primary by Deputy Clerk Pam Mathy, who was in turn defeated by Republican John Niemerg earlier this month.

    “I’m just going to sit and take it easy for awhile,” Jansen said. “I’ll be doing some things I want to get done around the house.”

    Before her eight years as circuit clerk, Jansen had been a deputy clerk for 16 years.

    Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com