Carmi's Economic Development Director Sandra Irvine has officially retired. Irvine has spent twenty-one years in the economic development field, starting in November of 1998 with the White County Economic Development Group (WEDG). “JoEllen Seil and I started with WEDG on November 1, 1998 in offices located at the Windsor Oaks in Grayville,” Irvine said. “In 2007, I moved to Carmi City Hall and became the city's economic development director, overseeing the enterprise zone, the TIF district and revolving loan program.”
When David Port was elected Carmi mayor, he asked Irvine to help him as a city administrator. Irvine continued serving in an economic development role after Jeff Pollard was elected Mayor and has served in that capacity until her retirement last Thursday, June 6.
Irvine recalled numerous accomplishments during her twenty-one years in economic development. “One of the more significant accomplishments would be the effort to get Southeastern Illinois College to deed back ten lots to the City of Carmi,” Irvine said. “Those lots were originally owned by the City of Carmi and were donated to the college. At the same time we got the lots back, we were able to extend Commerce Street from Rt. 1 to connect with Rt. 14.” Within that area of development, new business that have sprung up include True Value, Peoples Bank, the Taco Factory and Taylor Eye Care. The region remains under development with additional businesses expected to locate in the area.
Another major accomplishment Irvine was involved with included the nearly $1 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) buyout of flood-prone properties in East Carmi. “That was a huge deal,” Irvine said. “We were able to eliminate sixteen properties within the flood-prone area and managed to clean up that part of town.” Irvine says she is hopeful that a recreational area can be established there, since governmental regulations require the property to remain open space.
Other accomplishments include improvements to Burrell Street where it ends at the Bradshaw Park ball fields. “With an Illinois Department of Transportation grant, we were able to deepen the ditches, improve the drainage, install sidewalks and make the area a whole lot safer for the neighborhood,” Irvine said.
One project that Irvine says she will continue to work with beyond her retirement is an environmental and educational project at Burrell Park. “We received a $35,000 grant from Vibracoustic [one of Carmi's largest employers] to complete what they call an E-2 Environmental and Education Program,” Ivine said. “We call it the Burrell Park Born Learning Trail.” The trail, still under construction, will feature areas where children can play, nature signs identifying various species of trees and birds and new brightly colored picnic tables and chairs. Security cameras to discourage vandalism are also being installed. “A number of volunteer groups including local Scout groups are helping with the project,” Irvine said. “Weather permitting, the project should be wrapped up and ready for visitors by August.”
Retirement plans include travel and lots of chores, Irvine said. “My husband Rick and I plan to catch up on our thousand item to-do list,” Sandra said. “Then we have plans to travel – there are lots of places we both want to visit.”
Sandra and her husband Rick – who is also retiring this month – live in Grayville.
One other retirement from the City of Carmi has also been announced. Aleta Heern has officially retired after serving 34 years in the City of Carmi Light and Water Department. Heern's duties included billing and collections for the utility department.