Longtime area public works official Behm hitting the road for retirement
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News January 22, 2013 5:48PM
South Elgin Village President Jim Hansen (left) laughs with Public Works Director Chuck Behm after presenting Behm with his retirement gift at Monday’s village board meeting. | Janelle Walker~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2013 6:18AM
SOUTH ELGIN — Chuck Behm didn’t just get a plaque or a watch to commemorate his retirement this week as the village’s director of public works.
Instead, the South Elgin Village Board said goodbye to Behm after nine years with his very own road sign, congratulating him on his retirement.
Behm, 57, officially retired Tuesday after 30 years of road construction and maintenance, snow removal and salt spreading.
Before becoming the director at South Elgin, he was the Dundee Township highway commissioner for almost 20 years, then the assistant director and interim director of public works in West Dundee for three years. He was hired by South Elgin in 2003 and also is a Dundee Township trustee.
A lifelong Dundee Township resident, Behm now plans to spend his retirement traveling the open road and working on his golf game.
His career in roads started in 1981, when at the age of 26 he ran for the Dundee Township highway post. He won that election, running as an independent, by just 36 votes out of 6,000 cast, Behm said.
It wasn’t what he thought he’d be doing as a young man, Behm said.
“I went to law school in California, and in the second quarter of classes the engine on my Vega blew up,” Behm chuckled.
“I thought I was going to hit it big in L.A. I was so glad to come back here,” Behm said.
He did get his bachelor’s degree in political science at Southern Illinois University, which served him well over 30 years of working within local government, Behm said.
South Elgin Village President Jim Hansen commended Behm for his ability to talk and work with residents, even if those discussions were about complaints to the village.
“He handled the village residents just perfect,” Hansen said. “He handled their needs and complaints. We are sorely going to miss Chuck in meeting with the residents — that is the most important part of his job.”
Over his 30 years working on roads throughout Kane County, Behm said, he has seen many changes.
When he first became township highway commissioner, there were many unpaved township roads. One of his biggest accomplishments was getting those blacktopped, Behm said.
“It was all rural roads. Dundee Township has nine cities, 36 square miles. I had 33 miles of road, 66 when doubled for the other lane,” he said.
“Back then, I wanted to do everything,” Behm said. That meant running road graders on the unpaved roads, and operating salt trucks or snowplows, too, he added.
In comparison, South Elgin has 73 lane miles of road. In South Elgin, he also helped usher in improvements to its well system that should serve as the village grows, Behm said.
It is also a small department — the employees of which Behm praised at his last village board meeting on Monday. “We have 19 people in South Elgin public works … as compared to 65 in some towns, but we get it done,” Behm said.