When Marion Mayor Bob Butler took office in 1963, John F. Kennedy was President, no one had yet walked on the moon, and computers took up entire rooms. Tuesday, the city honored its long-serving leader with a bronze statue on Tower Square.
The mayor, who says his time has been a massive collaborative effort, admits there’s something to be said for longevity. In his 50 years in office, Butler has led his community through the tragedy of tornadoes and fires, and helped build the city of Marion into what he’s coined “The Hub of the Universe.”
“A community is always moving, one way or the other. It is either moving forward, or sliding backward. It is never going to stand still. The town that decides that it wants to stand still is a town that is on the verge of dying.”
Butler is the longest serving mayor still in office in the state, and also in the nation. He still has two years left on his current term, which he says will be his last.
Butler says he takes pride in accomplishments like alleviating the city’s flooding issues, business growth like the Illinois Star Center Mall and “The Hill”, and growing Marion from a small town into the economic engine it has become.
Butler says there’s something to be said for longevity, particularly after he campaigned in 1963 on issues surrounding massive drainage and sewer problems in the city.
“I really took after my opponent, the incumbent mayor, and I said ‘He’s been mayor for two terms, and we still continue to have flooding. This is something that needs to be solved and taken care of.’ Twenty-five years later, I was able to help cure that problem.”
The monument also includes the names of all the city council members he’s worked with and a history of the community. Those who organized the honor say Mayor Butler would only consider accepting it if the others were included.