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Friends, colleagues celebrate retirement of former McLean County Board chair John McIntyre

Michele Steinbacher / WGLT
The retirement of former McLean County Board chair John McIntyre, in front of the room, was celebrated Monday night.

Friends and colleagues of former McLean County Board chair John McIntyre gathered with the community leader on Monday to celebrate his retirement at the Bloomington VFW.

McIntyre stepped down from his post in September due to health reasons. So, a sendoff ceremony, including presentation of a plaque honoring his service, was delayed until he was feeling better, said county administrator Cassy Taylor.

McIntyre will be remembered for many accomplishments, including a dedication to improving access to mental health care in the community, said Taylor, who organized the event. Fellow county board member Susan Schafer agreed. She worked closely with McIntyre over the past decade to bring the McLean County Mental Health Action Plan into its current state.

“He’s always put the people of McLean County first,” said Schafer.

Many attending Monday’s event applauded McIntyre’s ability to rise above partisan politics, as well as his efforts to bring economic growth to the community, including being involved with recruiting Rivian Motors to Normal and Brandt Industries to Bloomington — just two examples.

McIntyre Lane newest county road

As part of the celebration, the county presented McIntyre with a green street sign, and announced “McIntyre Lane” will be the newest official county roadway — situated between Brigham School Road and Margaret Road and running parallel to U.S. 51.

Brandon Lacey, the county’s 9-1-1 system manager, and his supervisor Rhonda Flegel, proposed the honor when McIntyre stepped down from his position.

Michele Steinbacher / WGLT
During Monday's retirement reception, it was announced that “McIntyre Lane” will be the newest official county roadway — situated between Brigham School Road and Margaret Road and running parallel to U.S. 51.

Taylor recently made the street name official.

“(The road) was actually used for addressing a solar farm to help power our community. So, like his legacy, this will last a long time,” Lacey said.

McIntyre told WGLT it was a tough decision to step down from his post. He could have taken a leave of absence for a few months when he got out of the hospital in September, and then come back. But he and his family decided instead it was time to step away for good.

“Life changes pretty fast sometimes,” he said, noting he and his wife, Laurie, want to spend more time visiting children and grandchildren spread across the country.

He had regrets about how fast the resignation came down, saying he didn’t give enough warning, and there was some misinterpretations that he was seriously ill. His health is much better now, he added.

“I’m kind of speechless,” he said about the crowd that turned out at the VFW. “I didn’t realize how many people would be here.”

Festive atmosphere

With the holiday season just wrapping up, the VFW still was festive with holiday lights hanging at the bar, and desserts spread across a table. Prior to the evening’s formal ceremony, McIntyre and his wife mingled with the crowd, catching up with everyone.

In a farewell speech, McIntyre, who turns 81 next week, apologized for leaving his District 5 seat so suddenly. He attributed it to the health issues. But he took a somber tone, and imbibed it with jokes, telling the crowd that his current schedule now is early morning coffee meetings with other retirees.

He also said without his role on the county board, his family now considers him a “fall risk.” By that, he explained, they worry his free time means he might sign up to coach football once again. He’s a retired educator and football coach.

Taylor pointed out that members of local law enforcement, judges, county board members, and Normal and Bloomington civic leaders as well as family friends were among those gathered.

Current McLean County Board chair Catherine Metsker said one of the qualities that made McIntyre admirable as a county leader was his ability to work across political aisles, and his patience when considering the issues at hand. “He’s always been such a good listener,” she said.

“I think John tried to promote civility. It’s a hard thing to promote anymore in politics,” added county board member Chuck Erickson. McIntyre wanted county board members to be civil with each other when presenting their arguments. But then, when the issue is over, recognize, “Hey, you’re still going to see them at the grocery store, and you have to say hi,” said Erickson.

Patrick Hoban, who heads the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, recalled the way “McIntyre could work a room” and diligently gather support for McLean County on the community’s annual One Voice trips to Washington, D.C.

“That guy knows everybody,” added Hoban.

Neil Finlen worked with McIntyre on the EDC. But his son Sean Finlen also came to the reception to cheer on his youth mentor. The younger Finlen played football at Normal Community High School back when McIntyre was coaching there.

A lot of McIntyre’s former players looked up to him well after the game ended, said Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who also was in attendance. The turnout of people from varied backgrounds didn’t surprise Koos, who considers McIntyre a close friend.

“It speaks to his ability to work in an elected position, governing — and not being political about it,” said Koos, adding “John is always looking for a common solution when there are disparaging opinions. It’s always been his strength.”

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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