Mayor Glenn Warning
When Glenn Warning was born in Frankfort in 1924, the town was a small community of 350 people.
”It was mostly made up of retired German farmers,” says Warning, who has been village president for 20 years.
With its current population of 4,800, Frankfort still may be considered small by suburban standards. ”Small but very active,” says the part-time president, who also owns a charter bus company. ”We have many community organizations here, and people get involved.”
In fact, one can say that Warning`s political career grew out of his involvement in community organizations, such as the Lions Club. In a town where everyone knew everyone else, his activities did not go unnoticed. When a vacancy developed in the board of trustees in the early 1960s, George Sangmeister Sr., then the village president, appointed Warning to fill it.
(The late George Sangmeister Sr. was the father of current State Sen. George Sangmeister.)
”Later I ran for that position,” he recalls. ”While serving on the board, I got interested in the way the community was growing, so I ran for mayor.”
That was 1965. Since then, Warning`s salary went from $5 per meeting to $75.
”One of the first things I did as mayor was to reorganize the community so that people and businesses could work together,” he says. ”The Chamber of Commerce was dead, so I called a meeting of business people and we discussed ways in which businesses could be more active in village affairs. The chamber was reactivated, and today it is 100 members strong.”
A businessman himself, Warning saw the advantages of such a harmonious relationship. He and his brother had sold new cars for years before he opened the charter bus company that bears his name in 1967.
With the help of a village clerk, a six-member board of trustees and a part-time administrator, Warning established a growth pace for Frankfort that seems to agree with many of its residents.
”We want growth, but growth has to be slow so that services can catch up with the increasing needs of the community,” says Sue Steeves, executive director of the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce.
One of Warning`s current projects is doing precisely that. The village is in the process of securing a contract to enlarge its sewer plant. Work is expected to begin in August. When completed, the plant will have doubled its capacity, allowing for further development of vacant lands.
Strict building and zoning ordinances dating from the early 1960s, which Warning has continued to enforce, have maintained an 1890s-architectural theme in Frankfort and have kept the industrial area to the south and southeast of town.
Beyond preserving Frankfort`s historical charm, Warning has done much to bring businesses to the area, Steeves says.
Mobil Chemical Co. and the Borg-Warner Corp. Spring Division, with 500 and 350 employees, respectively, both came to the area during Warning`s tenure as village president. Mobil Chemical Co. is a division of Mobil Oil Corp. that makes Styrofoam containers, and the Borg-Warner Corp. Spring Division makes auto parts. Warning considers these among his major accomplishments.
”I was very instrumental in bringing both of those companies to our community,” he says.
Although those are major employers, Warning also has been busy encouraging small industries and businesses to set up quarters in town. One of his favorite projects was the development of Frankfort`s historical district, where a museum, antique shops and other small retail outlets serve as tourist attractions.
This offsets in part the loss of the Grainery, a shopping mall in a former grain elevator. The shops were destroyed in a fire a year and a half ago.
”That was quite a loss because it was a tourist spot for Frankfort,”
Warning says. He hopes to fill the site, in the center of town, with a small shopping center.
He is also working on the development of a shopping center on the north side of town and says he hopes that a supermarket will be among the businesses opening there.
”We do need a supermarket,” Steeves says. ”What we have is many convenience shops, and we have to shop in our neighboring communities. The big chains don`t want to come here because they say we don`t have the population to support them.”
Only one of two mayors in 52 years, Warning describes his style of government as very conservative. Throughout the years, he has sometimes worked with trustees who did not always think along the same lines.
”But if they weren`t conservative when they came to the board, I made them that way,” he says.
”A community should be self-supporting. I run the village the same as I do a business. If we can`t (afford to) do something we don`t do it.”
Warning says he feels his community is much better off financially than many other suburbs in the area. He feels his approach to government accounts for that.
He is a member of the Lincolnway Intergovernmental Group, made up of representatives from Mokena, New Lenox and Frankfort. The group, which Warning helped found in the early 1970s, meets once a month to discuss issues of mutual concern.
”I felt we needed better correlation between the three communities,”
Warning says, ”since we all have the same problems such as sewers, police, roads, etc. As a group, it was easier to get something done at the county or state levels.”
Among the group`s first tasks was the creation of a line to determine each city`s limits and thus the extent of their growth.
”That way we would never fight when plans for new developments arose,”
says Burt Breidert, Frankfort`s village administrator.
”As a group,” Breidert continues, ”we have organized our opinion and got more leverage on matters that affected us,” such as road location and highway maintenance. The portion of U.S. Hwy. 30 that affects New Lenox was upgraded as a result of the group`s negotiations.
Warning sees further land development in Frankfort`s future. Two ongoing residential developments on the northwest and east sides of town attest to that.
As for his own future plans, Warning isn`t saying. ”I was just re-elected, and I`ve still got another three years to go,” he says.