Chris Brown sworn in as new Morris mayor

At first meeting, delivers State of City address

MORRIS – Soon after the 20-year era of Dick Kopczick as Morris mayor ended Monday, newly elected mayor Chris Brown took the oath of office at Morris City Hall, administered by Judge Mary K. O’Brien of the 3rd District of the Illinois Appellate Court.

Other new members of the administration who were sworn in were City Clerk Lori Werden, City Treasurer Terri Kief and 2nd Ward Alderman Dean Tambling. Reelected Aldermen Herb Wyeth (1st Ward), Jake Duvick (1st Ward), Julian Houston (2nd Ward), Derrick Wren (3rd Ward) and Sarah Mettille (4th Ward) also were sworn in.

After calling the meeting to order and leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, Brown made his personnel appointments.

Appointed as budget officer was Lori Werden; as building and zoning officer was Bill Martin; as building inspector was Dan Snyder; as city attorney was Garret Wheeler; as city auditor was Mack & Associates P.C.; as deputy city clerk was Gail Hussey; as deputy city treasurer was Daria Lynes; as city electrician was Ayers Electric; as city engineer was Chamlin & Associates; as fire marshal/ESDA liaison was Tracey Steffes; as human resources administrator was Mitzi Gross; as planning consultant was Teska Associates; as plumbing inspector was Randy White; as police chief was Alicia Steffes; as public works director was Mike Day; and as superintendent of streets was Doug Pfaff.

Brown then gave his State of the City address.

“As your new mayor, I want to first tell you how excited I am to be speaking with all of you today,” he said. “I look forward to working with the City Council, our City Hall team and all of the city departments to bring prosperity and positive change to our community. I would like to thank the city of Morris. ... As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, I know our city, its residents and our business community will undoubtedly face economic challenges for some time to come.

“Big challenges call for big ideas. We need to be open to ideas and approaches for reenforcing supporting our local businesses while we keep an eye on the future and the focus on expansion which makes sense for our city. I am proposing the formation of a business and community development arm of this city that will report directly to my office. As I said during my campaign, our downtown is better than most, but I have a vision for a downtown that is second to none. My vision has been fully endorsed by the recent Morris Downtown Master Plan.

“With the challenges proposed by the pandemic and involving the economy and a behavioral shift in shopping and work patterns, our community and downtown must change and adapt to these challenges. Morris continues to be an attractive for its citizens and businesses to shop, dine and conduct business or to attend one of our festivals or special events. My long-term vision is to continue the beautification of downtown, permanent outdoor dining, improve infrastructure, expansion of business and improving our overall quality of life. Together, we can build on our past success and we chart a course for the future that will respond to change and allow Morris and its citizens to enjoy success for many years to come.

“Our work at this stage may start with our downtown, but it certainly does not end there. With the Procter & Gamble logistics facility to our north, Love’s Truck Stop and Restaurant development to our east, and opportunities for residential and retail development to the west, Morris is open and ready for business in all directions. We must have proactive outreach to investors so they know and understand what Morris has to offer. We have wisdom and experience to lean on. We also have plenty of energy and new ideas from some of the newer additions to our council and City Hall team. My promise to you is that I will always have my door open to you. Your voice will always be heard, and I know that you carry the voices of your constituents.

“It is so vitally important that we keep the lines of communication open, honest and respectful. We serve each and every resident of Morris. We must always remember to keep them at the center of all that we strive to accomplish together. ... Open communications between departments, City Hall and our citizens are essential to our success. Let us all take pride in what we do to serve our community and understand the importance of our work.

“I would like to say thank you once more to all who have supported me and my family. I would like to ask for your continued support and prayers as I embark on this new adventure. This is a dream come true. I promise to be a leader that works hard to earn your respect. Thank you for the opportunity to be your mayor.”

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.