N. IL loses true friend of fire service
From the DeKalb Chronicle:
SYCAMORE - Local government and education leaders are remembering Dave Wirsing as a highly accessible 70th district state representative with an intense concern for local issues and a special interest in higher education.
Wirsing, 66, passed away Sunday afternoon after an apparent heart attack.
"Dave was a very accessible representative and I think it's fair to say ... he was a representative in the true sense of the word," said Bill Nicklas, Sycamore's city manager and a former city manager in DeKalb.
DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow lauded Wirsing for helping to secure state funds for major capital repairs such as replacing the Taylor Street bridge and road work.
"I really liked him because he was always there," Sparrow said, to listen to a concern.
Sparrow said Wirsing's tenure on the Sycamore School Board before he became a state representative in 1993 helped give him a "local government perspective" that was crucial when it came to knowing how cities and towns would be affected by legislation passed in Springfield.
Wirsing also helped get funding for Sycamore's $1.7 million downtown streetscape project in 2001, helping to expand the scope of the work from basic street and curb repairs to include new sidewalks, trees and historic lighting, among other additions, Nicklas said.
"That was really critical," he said. "He came through with a half million dollars."
State Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Sycamore, occupied Wirsing's seat before moving on to the state senate. The two spent many long car rides back and forth from Springfield. Burzynski referred to his colleague as an "older brother" figure.
At local functions, the two often gave one another other his share of good-natured ribbing, and Burzynski said Wirsing had a good sense of humor and an affable nature that allowed him to work well with other lawmakers.
"Dave got along very well with his colleagues and peers," he said.
State House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego agreed.
"I think he was exceptional in that regard," Cross said, and it was one of Wirsing's qualities that allowed him to work with fellow Republicans and Democrats on legislation important to his district and the state.
Cross and Wirsing were in the DeKalb area last week to speak with Northern Illinois University officials and other local groups.
Throughout the meetings, people stood up to thank Wirsing for the work he did on issues as varied and domestic violence and agriculture, Cross said.
With Northern Illinois University and Kishwaukee College in his district, Wirsing was especially attuned to higher education, local officials say. He also served as the Republican spokesman on the House Committee on Higher Education.
"He was the higher education guru, if you will," Cross said, and the person the House relied on when it came to successfully advocating for more money for all state universities during state budget negotiations.
"I am deeply saddened to hear of the untimely death of Dave Wirsing," NIU President John Peters said in a statement. "He was a man of great integrity who was well-respected by all the presidents and chancellors of all public universities in Illinois. He was a great friend and supporter of NIU, and a great personal friend as well."
In a statement, Kishwaukee College President Dave Louis said: "Kishwaukee College could not have lost a truer friend. Dave worked tirelessly for higher education and was a huge supporter of the college. He always enjoyed meeting students and employees and had a genuine understanding of their needs and appreciation of their accomplishments. He will be greatly missed."
Mary Simons, chair of the DeKalb County Republican party, said that even after being elected to the State House, Wirsing remained a Republican precinct committeeman, working on party-building activities such as getting nominating petitions signed.
"Dave was a foot soldier along with being one of our state representatives," she said.
Sparrow lauded Wirsing's honestly and willingness to answer a question directly, regardless of whether he thought his audience would like what he had to say.
"Dave would take any question you ask him," Sparrow said.
Before coming to Springfield, Wirsing was a grain and livestock farmer for 30 years and served as the president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association.
Officials said it was too early to say who might replace him or how that person would be chosen.
According to Burzynski, county Republican chairpersons from counties that are part of the 70th district, along with the House Republican leadership, will choose someone to serve in Wirsing's seat until elections next year.
State law requires that an appointment be made within 30 days of when a vacancy occurs.
For the first time in a decade, Wirsing had competition for the Republican nomination this March. DeKalb County Board member Joe Wiegand announced his candidacy in August.
Wirsing is survived by his wife, Nancy, four children and nine grandchildren.
Wirsing worked hard, along with Don Moffitt (CRs friend) on the Illinois Fire Service Task Force. This task force toured the state, meeting with local fire departments and districts and listening to their needs. The work of this task force led DIRECTLY to the State's new Revolving Loan Fund for fire apparatus; laws passed allowing FPDs to bill for multiple flase alarms; recover taxes spent on fuel; set up the state's no-liablity equipment donation program; and a few others I'm sure CR can elaborate on.
We have lost a true friend.