The East-West Gateway Council of Governments presented its annual Outstanding Local Government Achievement Awards Wednesday to six recipients during its 50th annual meeting, recognizing area governments and officials for their achievement in the areas of public service, leadership, and productive collaboration among local governments.
The presentations were made at the noon luncheon Wednesday, Nov.18 at the St. Louis Union Station, in downtown St. Louis.
Gateway Lifetime Public Service Awards went to Stephen Michael Murray, a bicycle and pedestrian advocate, and James Pennekamp, recently retired former executive with the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District, and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
An Exemplary Accomplishment by a Local Government Jurisdiction, Agency or Individual Award went to the city of Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department for its Youth Enrichment Skills / Recreation Camp.The free camp was designed and implemented by the police department’s school resource officers and was designed to build self confidence for the participating youth and teach respect for themselves and others.
An Exemplary Intergovernmental Collaboration Award went to the city St. Louis, and Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, St. Charles, St. Clair and St. Louis counties for completing the St. Louis Regional Digital Microwave Network. The new system allows land mobile radio systems in the city of St. Louis and the surrounding six counties to serve first responders and other public safety personnel by allowing them to communicate across jurisdictional boundaries. The complex $9.7 million system is composed of 76 microwave towers that enable police, fire, and emergency medical agencies to communicate seamlessly during natural or man made disasters.
An Exemplary Public / Private Collaboration Award was presented to the Scott Air Force Base & Southwestern Illinois Defense Assets Task Force for its work toward protecting Scott Air Force Base from closure. The task force consists of representatives of St. Clair County, Madison County and the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois. The Defense Assets Task Force was formed in 2013 and continues as a united regional effort to protect, grow, and expand Scott Air Force Base as it faces possible changes in the defense budget and potential efforts to close or realign military bases.
A Leadership in Planning and Design Innovation Award was given to Madison County, the city of Edwardsville and the village of Glen Carbon for their work to develop the I-55 Development Code. These three jurisdictions collaborated to create a consistent regulatory environment to enhance land use planning and development for a 12-square mile area that is projected to experience significant growth over the next 30 years.
In presenting Murray the Gateway Lifetime Public Service Award, East-West Gateway Executive Director Jim Wild cited Murray for his life of public service that began as a Peace Corps volunteer and staff member in South America and Washington D.C.
“In the spirit of the Peace Corps mission, Mike always has made room in his life to work at the grassroots level to make sustainable change that endures long after the service is complete,” Wild said.
Wild listed Murray’s contributions, including his work as a founding member of the board of Forest Park Forever, the Forest Park Advisory Board, and board of the Great Rivers Greenway District. As the first chairman of the East-West Gateway’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in 1995, Murray was instrumental in creating the region’s first bike plan. He remains an active member today.
“While this list is long and impressive, this recognition is about more than the breadth of voluntary service,” Wild said. “It is about the quality of the effort and the measureable achievements and outcomes benefitting the region that are borne from it. Mike Murray is a shining example of the impact of a lifetime of public service.”
Pennekamp, the other Gateway Lifetime Public Service Award recipient, became the first president of the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council in 2008. Wild stated that “without Jim’s calm demeanor, excellent management skills and full understanding of the issues, the serious regional challenge of the repair and re-accreditation of the levees would not have been accomplished. “
Before tackling that task, Pennekamp was with the Leadership Council for 17 years, where he organized a regional coalition of government, business, industry, and education and labor leaders to help defend Scott Air Force Base against closure efforts in 1995 and again in 2005. He also was involved in helping secure funding to support Interstate 255 expansion, the McKinley Bridge renovation, America’s Central Port and other major public infrastructure projects.
At SIU – Edwardsville, starting in 2005, Pennekamp served as special assistant to the chancellor for regional economic development and executive director of University Park, the university’s 330-acres research and technology park. Pennekamp also was director of The Gardens at SIU, which is a 35-acre public botanical garden on campus.
“Jim is known as a gregarious person who believes in and sees the best in individuals and institutions,” Wild said. “His commitment to public service and to the St. Louis region has been evident throughout his career.”
The Outstanding Achievement in Local Government awards, known by their acronym as the OLGAs, are presented yearly by East-West Gateway to the local governments or individuals who have demonstrated a special commitment to their community and the region. East-West Gateway is the area’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization. East-West Gateway’s 22-member board of county executives, mayors and urban leaders meets monthly to approve federal funding for transportation and other projects that have regional impact.