Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

The Clinton City Council’s three-member Internal Operations Committee had an interesting discussion on Thursday.

If you want to commemorate someone’s service to the community, how do you do so fairly? How do you make sure that person deserves the recognition? How do you make sure no one is overlooked who could be or should be honored?

Thursday’s discussion centered around Mayor Rodger Holm’s request to have a new street, as yet not selected, to carry the name of former long-time councilman Darrell Smith. He pointed out that Smith has dedicated his life to serving the community, all the way from the mid-1950s until leaving the council at the end of 2010. He also mentioned Smith’s involvement in civic activities and the creation of the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery Center Museum as another major contribution.

However, committee member Jennifer Graf, a councilwoman, said the city needs to have a procedure in place, a framework to follow, in order to analyze such requests. She looked at other cities and said some name their streets for trees or flowers, or keep it consistent with streets and avenues depending on the direction the road travels.

She then gave a list of other long-time council members and city officials that she said merit the honor.

She asked: Should there be a commission that considers the request, and then a vetting procedure to do a thorough check of the person being considered so there are no surprises later? And then do you shorten it to the person’s last name only?

Her insight brought up a lot of interesting questions about the process.

So who is right?

Well in listening to both sides argue their case, I think they both are.

Graf is right in asking that a process be put in place. While some at the meeting said they didn’t think such requests would happen very often, currently there are names attached to streets and many of them were determined by developers.

If a request is made to name a street after a person to honor them, then it is not out of line to have a protocol in place to determine who qualifies, something that can be used throughout the upcoming years by the council or a possible committee named to handle such requests. That way consistency will occur.

Knowing the contributions Mr. Smith has made to this community, the mayor also is right in making this request. After all, if you can’t qualify for this honor after serving 50 years and being involved in so much of Clinton’s past — including as its mayor — well then, what would it take?

I hope the council approves this request and gives him the honor due.

Then, I also hope they follow up with Councilwoman Graf’s request to ensure that everyone whose name is submitted meets consistent credentials and to ensure that no one is passed over on the whim of a city committee or council not in tune with that person’s achievements.

After all, so many people have worked hard to make Clinton a better place.

This way of honoring them ensures their names are not forgotten by the future generations who will grow up and live along these streets in the years to come.

This is Charlene Bielema’s weekly take on issues in the Clinton area. She is a Fulton, Ill., native and has been employed with the Clinton Herald since June 1995. She has been the Herald’s editor since 2002.