Gerald “Jerry” Schweighart was a servant leader to the highest degree. He spent more than fifty years serving the residents of Champaign with honor, first as a 32-year veteran of our Police Department, then as a City Council Member from District Five for six years before being elected Mayor for 12 years, from 1999 to 2011.
As a Police Officer, he served primarily as a Juvenile Officer, and spent his time directly engaged with young people. When he was promoted to Sergeant, he worked to keep our community safe and assist our Patrol Officers in their duties. He retired from the Police Department in December of 1991.
Through his steady hand and stable leadership, Mayor Schweighart helped our community to weather a recession that had deep impacts on public funding, making the tough decisions necessary to emerge from the economic downturn poised for rebuilding and growth.
During his tenure as an elected official, our City made incredible strides in upgrading our infrastructure. We saw a revitalization of our Historic Downtown, a complete reconstruction of our Campustown streetscape, and the completion of our beautiful Second Street Basin, turning a once problematic watershed into a place of beauty for all to enjoy. Our City also saw 1.8 billion dollars’ worth of new construction, which in many ways was directly attributable to his dedication to investing in and upgrading our local infrastructure.
Mayor Schweighart’s willingness to converse directly with our community set him apart. Through Letters to the Editor and frequent correspondence, he set a high standard for public engagement in a time before social media. His office door was always open and if he wasn’t there, you could find him with a cup of coffee at Taffies, talking to residents or other elected officials about the issues of the day. Mayor Schweighart was a kindhearted man who loved our community. Always quick with a joke, his laugh was infectious.
As we remember Mayor Schweighart and his legacy in Champaign, the thoughts and prayers of a grateful City are with his wife, Kim, his children, Jerry, Tami, Jeff and Rory, and his entire family. We thank them for their willingness to share their loved one with our community during his more than five decades of dedicated service.