Thumbs up to Marion Mayor Bob Butler. Make that former Marion Mayor Bob Butler (isn’t that weird to hear?). Butler retired Wednesday after 55 years at the helm of the “Hub of the Universe,” as he loved to call Marion. Butler took office in May 1963, and has been the choice of three generations of voters. He is the longest serving mayor in Illinois and second-longest serving in the United States. “I have been given more credit than I deserved and more criticism than was warranted. I’ve learned you cannot let criticism deter you from what is right. If I am convinced I’m doing what is right, I am not concerned about criticism,” Butler said in a story this week. We can respect that. We haven’t always seen things eye-to-eye with Mayor Butler — you’ll have that after 55 years — but we definitely respect Butler and the job that he did in Marion. Cheers, Mr. Mayor.

Thumbs down to the Illinois State Board of Education for planning to hire "storytellers" to relay tales of successes in Illinois classrooms. It’s no secret that Illinois has one of the worst-funded public schools in the country. And it’s no secret that state lawmakers have been hampered by technical glitches in a school-funding overhaul they approved last spring to help bring fairness to the country's most inequitable financial system. So, to hire three “storytellers” at least $47,400 per year to tell tales of success seems silly — not to mention fiscally irresponsible. State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, summed it best this week in a story from the Associated Press: "They send out a ton of information to their local superintendents and their local districts. If they asked them, 'Hey, if you've got a great story to tell on education, what's happening in your district, maybe something positive that's coming your way as a result of the funding reform bill, email us, send that back to us.'" Sounds easy enough to us.

Thumbs up to the SIU men’s basketball team. The Salukis are on a four-game winning streak and are sitting in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference, one game behind Loyola. There’s still a month to go in the season — we all know how quickly fortunes can change in sports — but the Dawgs are looking good at this point. Is a run through the Valley tournament possible? Absolutely. There’s definitely a shot for these Salukis to make a return to postseason play. Also, a bonus thumbs up for this team’s perseverance. About a month ago, it was announced that three major players — Thik Bol, Jonathan Wiley and Eric McGill — would miss the rest of the season because of injuries.

Thumbs down to a house fire in Harrisburg that claimed three lives early Wednesday. A Harrisburg firefighter said the call came in about 1:45 a.m. for three people trapped in the two-story, and Harrisburg Fire Chief John Gunning said a mother and two daughters were the deceased. Gunning would not say if the fire was suspicious. Our thoughts are with the family and the city of Harrisburg at this time.

Thumbs up to Shelly Hudspath and the Marion Carnegie Library. Hudspath, the coordinator of children’s services at the library, is coordinating an effort to get beloved children’s book author Jan Brett to visit the library. This is the eighth year of the Free School or Library Visit sponsored by Brett. As of this week, the library in Marion was in second place, and the contest runs through April 2. Brett has more than 40 million books in print. “She’s very prolific. Her illustrations are lush, and she gives so much more of the story (through little details) than in other children’s books,” Hudspath said.

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