NORMAL — Normal's longest-tenured council member is stepping down.
Jeff Fritzen, who's served on the council since 2003 and earlier from 1983 to 1999, will not run for re-election in 2019, he announced Monday.
"For me to serve, I need to know that my heart is totally in it, and looking four years down the road ... I thought it was better to leave too soon than too late," Fritzen told The Pantagraph. "I let it percolate for a couple weeks here and see how that felt. I'm really at peace with it."
Fritzen, 66, didn't rule out another council run but said he's not viewing this retirement as a refreshing break from public service, as his first council departure turned out to be. He'll continue to work as executive vice president at Bloomington Offset Process Inc. (BOPI).
"It's working with people," said Fritzen of what he'll miss the most about serving on the council. "In this arena, you're pretty much forced to talk to people, deal with people. ... Sometimes you can console. Sometimes you can get relief. Sometimes you can be their voice, but in the end things are what they are. But as long as you try, they appreciate that service."
Fritzen first left the council after four terms but came back to oppose a town-owned hotel in what was then still called downtown Normal. He spent the next four terms helping develop uptown into a downstate economic hub, including incentives for the privately owned Marriott Hotel that anchored it.
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"That's an accomplishment in that we were able to move the project in a different way and yet the whole vision of uptown was not lost," he said. "I think that says a lot about how we've conducted business. ... We always say we know how to agreeably disagree and move things forward."
Fritzen said he still frequently hears from residents about not only uptown but also Constitution Trail, which he told The Pantagraph in 1999 was his greatest accomplishment during his first council tenure.
Fritzen's second council tenure also coincided with that of Mayor Chris Koos, who he opposed for that office in 2005. Koos beat Fritzen by fewer than 200 votes among about 5,500 cast; Fritzen went on to spend the last two years as mayor pro tempore, running meetings when Koos is absent.
"Jeff has been an important and thoughtful voice on the council. He studies the issues and gives well considered opinions based on his experience and careful consideration," Koos told The Pantagraph. "The council runs the gamut of conservative to liberal, but foremost he allows his (politics) to inform his decision, not dictate it. He will be sorely missed."
Fritzen said he plans to stay in Bloomington-Normal, where he has deep roots. He's a a graduate of McLean County Unit 5 schools and Illinois State University; spokesman for the Bloomington-Normal Community Campus Committee; and an elder at East White Oak Bible Church in Carlock.