I was sad to see that former Carbondale Mayor Helen Westberg died this week. She passed away this weekend right here in Springfield. You’ve probably never heard of her and she was only Carbondale’s mayor for four years in the 1980s.
So, why do I care?
Well, she was elected while I was a very, very green reporter for the SIU student radio station WIDB in 1983. She was a smart and articulate woman. I remember covering a debate she had with her opponent held in the SIU Student Center (it just occurs to me that to this day it’s the ONLY candidates debate I’ve ever seen in person). I remember filing my initial report over the (pay) phone right after the debate ended. I remember going back to the radio station and getting some good feedback on my report. I remember being really pumped.
Westberg won the election and took office not long before I graduated and went out into the real world where I would become somewhat bored and cynical about reporting. But I’ll always remember that night in 1983 when I felt like I was on top of the world.
Anyway, Westberg moved to Springfield a few years ago to be with her son, Bob, who lives here. She passed away over the weekend at the age of 89.
Another politician I met at WIDB, some months before the 1983 mayoral election, was Carbondale’s Congressman, Paul Simon, who was running for reelection in 1982. That day is a story in itself but I’ll save it. Simon, one of only a handful of personal political heroes, also died here in Springfield a few years ago. Now Simon’s daughter, Sheila Simon, is running for…mayor of Carbondale.
The circle of political life, the circle of my life.