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Big honors for the man with big vision

Community celebrates former mayor on riverfront

DIXON – Former Mayor Jim Burke built a legacy bringing big ideas to fruition for the good of the community, and his place in Dixon history was sealed Thursday.

Friends, families and public officials celebrated Burke’s accomplishments on the riverfront he spent years to create and where his name now stands.

The City Council passed a resolution earlier this month renaming the 100 and 200 blocks of West River Street, between the Peoria and Galena Avenue bridges, to the “James G. Burke Way” as well as dedicating the “James G. Burke Pavilion” at Heritage Crossing.

Those dedications were paired with a community celebration hosted by the Dixon Chamber of Commerce and Main Street, an event that will become an annual tradition on the riverfront.

“He would truly be humbled,” Burke’s wife, Lucy, said after thanking everyone for honoring his memory.

Burke served four terms as mayor from 1999 to 2015 and died at 78 in February 2016. He was a founding member of the riverfront development project and operated Burke Realty in Dixon for more than 40 years.

He was also instrumental in building up the downtown, the industrial park and the Interstate 88 corridor.

“It’s important to honor public servants who go above and beyond to serve the community, and in the case of Mayor Burke, he did so much more than that,” City Manager Danny Langloss said. “He put together such an incredible team of people over the years, and what that team of people accomplished is remarkable.”

Burke was dedicated to moving forward, and “standing still was never an option,” said John Thompson, former longtime president of the Lee County Industrial Development Association and the Dixon Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I saw his selflessness countless times in countless ways,” Thompson said.

The street sign in his name was unveiled Thursday, and bronze letters soon will adorn the pavilion.

Ray Neisewander III, CEO of Raynor Garage Doors, said he couldn’t think of a more fitting way to honor Burke.

“Jim had a vision, and he liked to dream big,” Neisewander said.

An informal committee spent more than a year planning how to best honor Burke; its members were Langloss, Councilman Mike Venier, Neisewander, KSB Hospital CEO Dave Schriener, Rick Curia, CEO of Ken Nelson Auto Group, and Dixon Riverfront Commission President Larry Reed.

“His impact can be seen and felt everywhere,” Langloss said.

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