Allen remembered for his contributions at council meeting

By Dave Fidlin



The sudden, unexpected death of Council President James “Jim” Allen in the thick of the holidays prompted an outpouring of support from his elected colleagues and community members as the Common Council held its first meeting since the incident this week.

Allen, who served on the council for a decade-and-a-half, died Dec. 23. He was found in his home at 8 p.m., according to a news release.

At the council’s Jan. 16 meeting, elected officials had a moment of silence in Allen’s honor and read a proclamation in recognition of his assorted contributions. A number of people also spoke openly about Allen’s contributions and influence on their own lives.

The proclamation set the stage for naming Oct. 10, 2024, “Jim Allen Day,” in honor of his birthday and impact on the community.

The document also notes his numerous specific contributions – including, but not limited to, service as a founding member of the Birge Foundation Restoration and Whitewater Tourism committees.

More recently, he had a guiding hand in a number of specific pivotal issues, including folding fire and EMS operations into city government and the long-sought effort to bring a new grocer to the community.

Council member Jill Gerber, who described Allen as “a dear friend,” said she had a conversation with him on the day of his passing.

“Since that moment, not a moment has passed without thoughts of Jim lingering in my mind. I find myself wishing to have spoken with him and to have expressed the gratitude and emotions that now weigh heavily on my heart.”

Council member Neil Hicks, who read aloud the proclamation in Allen’s Honor, said he was inspired by Allen’s presence and involvement throughout the community.

“You’d typically find him at every city event,” Hicks said.

Stephanie Goettl, a former council member, served on the elected body with Allen. She described him as a mentor as an elected official and in life.

“He showed me how to be a better friend and a better human,” Goettl said. “He made connections with people younger than him. He also made connections with people who were older than him.”

Local business owner Jeff Knight worked with Allen in a number of capacities over the years, including on the local Community Development Authority’s board of directors.

“He was an incredible civil servant,” Knight said. “He put the citizens of Whitewater ahead of himself. He was a real person who was caring and had common sense.”

Larry Kachel, current president of the Whitewater Unified School Board, also worked with Allen on the CDA. Kachel lauded Allen for uncovering every figurative stone possible to try bringing that infamous grocer back into the local business community.

“We went and kicked the tires all over … looking for the right type of store that we thought would be interested in coming to Whitewater,” Kachel said. “Jim had more involvement in helping to bring a grocery store here. He didn’t give up.”


New council president named

The council on Jan. 16 also named Allen’s successor after submitting nominations and voting.

Council member Brienne Brown had nominated Lisa Dawsey Smith, a former council president and current president pro-tem, to the post. Brown, however, was the only official to cast a “yes” vote.

Council member Jill Gerber nominated Neil Hicks to the position, and he was appointed with all sitting members – including Brown – casting “yes” votes.

Comments are closed.