Burlington, News

Hefty plans to step away at end of term

Officials commend her long-standing commitment to city

By Jason Arndt

Jeannie Hefty

Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty had every intention to save the Echo Dam.

Her dedication to the project, which had drawn countless debates at Common Council meetings, made her opt to seek a fourth consecutive term two years ago.

In 2021, in the midst of the debate, Hefty said she wanted to serve as mayor to help guide the city through its decision on the future of the Echo Lake Dam.

With those issues resolved – courtesy of a Common Council resolution to retain the structure – Hefty reaffirmed her decision to the Standard Press last week and said she will not be circulating nomination papers for a fifth straight term.

“I was going to step down in 2022, but saving Echo Lake was in my heart,” she said in an emailed statement.

Hefty, whose term expires in April, said she has “no plans of leaving this city I love,” adding that her support system is in the Burlington area.

“After I step down in April 2024, my goal is to improve my health, focus on my family and friends,” Hefty said.

She hopes to add traveling to her list of hobbies.

Hefty, an ardent supporter of many community groups, also noted she will not be involved in any committees or belong to any groups after she finishes her tenure.

Once she concludes her term, Hefty said she will look to create more structure, which would allow her time to “really decide what I want to do for the remainder of my life.”

Since 1992, when Hefty started her first stint, which concluded in 2000, the City of Burlington has only had two other mayors at the helm, with Claude Lois serving from 2000 until 2008 and Robert Miller from 2008-2016.

President Jon E. Schultz II, of the Common Council, began his tenure under Miller before the city transitioned back to Hefty.

“I wasn’t around for her first term in the 90s, so I had no idea what the experience would be,” Schultz said. “What I learned is she’s a tireless cheerleader for the city, has a heart for people and Burlington, makes friends with everyone, and is not afraid to ask for help in order to get something done.”

Schultz said he has learned many valuable lessons from Hefty.

When Hefty started her second stint, Schultz acknowledged she didn’t know the entire Common Council, but made an immediate impression on officials.

“She came into a council in 2016 she mostly didn’t know and very quickly endeared herself to us and was a strong leader for her entire eight-year stretch,” Schultz said. “She may be retiring from public, but I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard from her. I know where her heart is, so I know she’ll continue to be a force in this city.”

Hefty has revitalized city
Thomas Preusker, of District 4, said Hefty has a long track record of serving the community and bringing people together.

Although Preusker admits he has only known her for a small part of Hefty’s long-standing tenure, he acknowledged that she has played a key role in bolstering Burlington in other ways, including service with the former Burlington Rescue Squad.

Additionally, Preusker commended Hefty for her dedication to veterans’ causes – including the creation of the veteran’s memorial wall at Echo Veterans Memorial Park.

“She also committed herself to preserving Echo Lake and Dam, which she and the community loves. With her first responder experience, the city has dramatically improved fire and rescue response times,” Preusker said.

Hefty also spearheaded the Burlington Ice Festival, which includes the State Ice Carving Championship, he added.

“I think she is happiest and most proud of bringing the city together to have fun and celebrate with each other,” Preusker said.

“The city has been revitalized under her leadership. Businesses are opening and thriving, and we have a lot of new residential developments planned. People want to be here and live here,” Preusker added.

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