Batavia’s Fourth Ward alderman resigns from City Council

Joe Knopp moving out of the area

BATAVIA – Fourth Ward Alderman Joe Knopp is resigning from the Batavia City Council because he is moving to a home in rural Winnebago County near Rockford.

Elected to the council in 2019, Knopp’s resignation is effective Sept. 30.

Knopp, 58, said he and his wife, Shelley, who are 25-year residents of Batavia, are empty nesters looking to downsize in quieter surroundings.

Serving on the city council has been a privilege, Knopp said.

“There are people on the council who really care about serving others,” Knopp said, adding he and his wife won’t be strangers to Batavia.

“We’ll be back every Fourth of July for the Batavia fireworks show,” Knopp said. “You won’t find a better community event.”

Knopp is an application engineer with a firm that markets seals and gaskets. He works from home. Shelley Knopp recently retired from Walgreens.

During his tenure on the council, Knopp was known for a blunt style of speaking and was noted for his opposition to the One Washington Place project.

“You can’t campaign for office and then when you’re elected sit and stay silent,” Knopp said. “You have to speak your mind and not be a rubber stamp.”

Asked what advice he would have for his successor, Knopp replied: “Be ready to smile and be ready to help out your neighbor.”

At the Sept. 20 City Council meeting, Mayor Jeff Schielke presented Knopp with a proclamation honoring the out-going alderman for his service.

Schielke said Knopp has taken an active role in property maintenance issues, which is a particular concern in the 4th Ward. The mayor also said Knopp has been “a strong voice” for the police and fire departments.

“On behalf of all the citizens of Batavia, thank you for what you’ve done,” Schielke said, shaking Knopp’s hand.

Knopp is a football fan and serves as a referee for the Illinois High School Association, officiating games all over northern Illinois.

As a high school football player, Knopp suffered a knee injury that has led to many surgeries over the years. Knopp said one of the reasons for the move is to trade his two-story home for a ranch house.

Applications are sought for a replacement. The person appointed to replace Knopp is to serve out the unexpired portion of the four-year term until the council seat is up for election in April 2023.

While the mayor technically can make the appointment on his own and seek confirmation by the aldermen, Schielke has long used a system in which the appointee is selected by a majority vote of the council.

In an open session, applicants are interviewed by the council, which then votes in secret. The appointment is announced by the mayor.

Schielke is asking interested 4th Ward residents to submit a letter or résumé to his office at Batavia City Hall, 100 N. Island Ave., no later than 4 p.m. Oct. 1.

A qualified applicant must be at least 18 years of age, have resided in the ward for at least one year and be a registered voter. More information is on the city’s website.

The 4th Ward encompasses the northeast side of the city. With some deviations, the southern boundary is the BNSF Railroad line, while its western boundary is the Fox River. The ward takes in a portion of the downtown, where the southern boundary reaches to East Wilson Street.

Some of the city’s oldest residential neighborhoods are in the 4th Ward, as well as the tidy ranch homes of the Batavia Highlands subdivision to the north and the Batavia Apartments complex to the east.

Geographically, the 4th Ward is considerably larger than most of the other wards because it includes the city’s industrial park, which extends east of Kirk Road.

Batavia is divided geographically into seven wards, with two aldermen representing each ward. The aldermen serve four-year staggered terms, with one aldermanic seat from each ward up for election every two years.