Posted Online: April 20, 2013, 6:10 pm

Mayor Welvaert passing the torch after 12 years

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By Dawn Neuses,

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Photo: John Greenwood
Moline Mayor Don Welvaert stands in the foreground of Western Illinois University Riverfront Campus, the construction of which he attributes to many, many people working together. He said the opening of the campus was one achievement he witnessed during his 12 years serving the city, four as aldermen At-Large and the past eight years as mayor. Other large projects completed during his time in office included construction of KONE Centre and Enterprise Lofts. Smaller projects, such as dredging of Riverside Lagoon and re-opening the overpass on John Deere Road, also moved the city forward, he said. Mayor Welvaert did not seek re-election and concludes his term in May.
Moline Mayor Don Welvaert said he can't pick one city project over another as a standout accomplishment during his 12 years in office because there were so many advances.

"The city has become vibrant, exciting and is growing," he said.

Mayor Welvaert did not seek re-election. His term ends on May 7, when Ald. Scott Raes, 3rd Ward, becomes mayor.

Before becoming mayor, Mayor Welvaert was an at-large alderman from 2001 to 2005.

"I believe we've gotten a lot done" over the years, he said. "I believe it's time for some rookie enthusiasm, new initiative, new leadership and new ideas. I think that will happen with the council we have and Scott's leadership."

Mayor Welvaert said he plans to stay involved in city government in some manner, perhaps serving on a board or commission.

City administrator Lew Steinbrecher said he had an excellent working relationship with Mayor Welvaert. "I've had the opportunity to work for a number of cities through the years, with quite a few mayors. While all mayors are committed to their community, Don has a unique dedication, a very strong commitment to the Moline community and to improve the lives of citizens. It has been evident throughout his term."

Mr. Steinbrecher said Mayor Welvaert worked through challenging city budgets, created a dedicated funding source to expand the Capital Improvement Program, established curbside recycling, pushed park improvements and supported economic development projects, including Western Illinois University Riverfront campus, the new Interstate 74 bridge and the multi-modal facility that will offer passenger rail service to Chicago.

"All of the projects are intended to improve the quality of life for citizens of Moline," Mr. Steinbrecher said. "I've really enjoyed working with Don the past eight years. He has been a great mayor."

Twelve years ago, when Mayor Welvaert was elected to the at-large seat, Moline was rebounding from a recession.

"A lot of work was already done with construction of the i wireless Center and John Deere Commons, and we were building on that success," he said. "A lot of the work remaining was clean-up -- eliminating the nurses' dorm, the three old Clark gas stations scattered across our community, the renovation of the pedestrian crosswalk across John Deere Road.

"They were things that gave Moline the perception of an older, run-down community," Mayor Welvaert said."I believe the city council and city administration have turned that perception around. We have cleaned up a lot of the blight left over from the previous recession.

"We have done a fantastic job renovating our downtown area," he said. "Our parks have been updated, and we are still in the process of doing more. The city has a new, state-of-the-art library and new state-of-the-art police facility and a new water plant that meets current standards."

Moline also reduced the number of city-owned downtown buildings from six to three, Mayor Welvaert said. "We have become more efficient and effective in our operations of the city, citywide.

"With passenger rail coming, having the Quad-Cities' multi-modal station in Moline, that will continue to revitalize our downtown," he said, adding development will continue on John Deere Road and near the WIU campus.

Before his tenure ended, hehoped to see residential development underway south of the airport and a groundbreaking for the new Interstate 74 bridge. But he's confident both projects will move forward.

"I have enjoyed providing leadership and making recommendations for the city council and staff to consider, debating the pros and cons of decisions," Mayor Welvaert said.

"It has been a greatexperience and one I will hold close for a long time," he said. "I've enjoyed everyone I've worked with, and it's been a great time to see Moline move forward and as aggressively as we've been able to move the city forward."

Moline Mayor Don Welvaert
Age: 62
Family: Wife Sally; daughter Wendy and son-in-law Rick Salazar; son Chris and daughter-in-law Amber; four grandchildren ages 8 - 5.
Occupation: Retired in 2006 as manager of operations, MidAmerican Energy Co. 
Event: A public reception will be  from 2 to 6 p.m. May 1 for Mayor Welvaert at Moline City Hall, 619 16th St.