Higgins enjoys small-town charm of Western Springs
Pat Higgins is the village manager for Western Springs. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:11AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — With April municipal elections approaching, we sat down with village administrators to ask about issues facing their community. Pat Higgins has worked at the Western Springs Village Hall for 35 years. He worked his way through the ranks and was named village manager 12 years ago. A former resident, Higgins now lives in Clarendon Hills with his wife, Karen. He has two daughters, a stepson and two grand-daughters.
Q. What has kept you in Western Springs for so long?
A. The boards have just been incredible. It’s a very apolitical environment, and we’ve got a terrific staff.
Q. Can you briefly describe the top three issues Western Springs faces?
A. The biggest issue, and the one that arises most often, is downtown redevelopment. Tischler’s Market has been vacant for 5 or 6 years now, and all of that happened when the economic downturn started.
Secondly, just the general economic situation. We’ve done pretty well, but it’s something you have to continue to monitor.
Third, I’m concerned about the ash thing (the emerald ash borer). Especially in the Field Park section of town, we’re trying to manage the losses.
Q. Given the economy, how would you describe Western Springs’ fiscal situation?
A. It’s good. We dipped into our reserves a little bit. Things are turning around. We just have to watch it.
We cut back approximately 8 percent of our workforce between 2008 and 2010. We had reductions all three years, without a noticeable amount of diminished services.
Real estate appears to be coming back. We never quite lost the value that some other communities did.
Q. How is the state’s pension crisis affecting Western Springs?
A. It has not really affected us at all. The only state impact we’ve had is that they’ve been very slow with their shared revenues, such as sales tax. I think they’re about two months behind at this point.
Q. What is Western Springs doing to promote economic development?
A. We do have a community development developer (Martin Scott). We had a workshop last Monday with the economic development commission. We’re talking about what we can do to provide incentives to produce some additional activity downtown. Marty makes monthly visits to our businesses. He is good at recruitment. He actively works with that community.
The legacy project in front of the tower green will set the look for the rest of the downtown streetscape. The same streetscape theme will work its way through the whole downtown.
Q. Do you think Western Springs is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
A. I think we’re pretty transparent. We’re rebuilding our website currently. It’s going to be a lot easier to find things. We hope to launch it the first of the year.
Q. What makes Western Springs a good place to live?
A. There’s a sense of small community and people care about each other, take care of each other and know each other. We’re seeing a significant number of young people coming back here.
Q. What types of businesses would you like to see come to town?
A. A few more restaurants and small boutique kinds of things.