MARION — Mayor Robert Butler announced his retirement on Friday, which means, according to Illinois Code, the city finance commissioner will fill the position of mayor. That means Commissioner Anthony Rinella will become mayor.
“In a few short days, something will happen that hasn’t happened in 55 years. Marion will have a new mayor,” Rinella said Friday afternoon.
Rinella retired from Marion Fire Department. He began working as a firefighter at the age of 21 and spent 32 ½ years with the department. He has served on Marion City Council eight years.
“I’ve spent my entire adult life working for the people of Marion. That’s all I know,” Rinella said.
Both Rinella and Commissioner Angelo Hightower previously announced their intentions to seek the office of mayor in 2019 when Butler’s term was set to expire.
“He did not do this for my political benefit. He did it for the city and his love for the city,” Rinella said. “He didn’t want to do anything with his health to put an imposition on the city.”
Rinella and the mayor talked, so he was aware that Butler might have to resign. Rinella called it “something you never thought he would do.”
Rinella said he is a different person than Butler with a different personality, calling Butler more outgoing. Rinella has learned a lot of good lessons from Butler.
“The big thing is to listen to people. Let them voice their concerns to you,” Rinella said.
Rinella said the city has a great administration in place, with knowledge it would be impossible to replace.
“You don’t replace experience and knowledge. Our workforce is unbelievable as well,” Rinella said. “All jobs are important and vital to the working of the city.”
As fire chief, Rinella wanted the firemen to feel the department was theirs, likening himself to a conductor and the firemen to an orchestra. He wants to do the same in the city.
He also would like to add to the economic growth accomplished under Butler’s leadership, drawing another employer with sustainable jobs that will support a family.
“He’s put the city on a good foundation and I want to certainly build and add blocks to that foundation,” Rinella said.
Hightower said the mayor’s resignation was something he anticipated long before Mayor Butler talked to the city council at Monday’s meeting.
“It’s not surprising. He warned the entire council at Monday night’s meeting. Even prior to announcement he made to us, I anticipated this,” Hightower said.
Hightower said some people will see this as a move to strengthen Rinella’s campaign for mayor.
“This is one of those times where it appears to be some shenanigans, but I take him at his word,” Hightower said.
He added that he still likes his chances for becoming mayor in 2019.
Hightower also hopes Butler can relax and live his remaining days in peace, reflecting on his career.
“I wish him well in retirement,” Hightower said.