HEBRON – This village of 1,200 people on the Illinois-Wisconsin border has basked in the afterglow of its 1952 state basketball championship for more than half a century, but more recently, much of the attention on Hebron has focused on its highest elected official, who was arrested twice on crack cocaine charges.
This month, the village of Hebron is about to get a fresh start with a new leader. Incoming Village President Kimberly Martinez said she wants to put the village’s reputation in the past and move forward.
Former Village President John Jacobson still faces drug and weapons charges after he was arrested last year during an incident in which police said they found him unconscious in his home after a night of smoking crack and drinking. It was his second crack cocaine arrest.
Martinez takes office May 15 at the next Village Board meeting. She won the April 4 election, taking 41 percent of the vote with 157 votes. Martinez faced three challengers, including Trustee Mark Mogan, former Village President Frank Beatty and incumbent John Jacobson.
The local real estate agent said her main focus is growth. In between meetings with city staff, residents and business owners, she said she already has begun making phone calls to work toward business recruitment.
“I wasn’t going to wait until Day 1 to start,” she said. “There was no need to wait for that.”
The village’s main strip is important, but industrial growth and small-business recruitment also are on the new village president’s radar.
“I can’t just focus on the downtown. Everywhere that we have zoned we are going to focus on,” she said. “The better amenities we have for the town and the more sales income tax we have for the town is going to help us grow in the right way.”
After Jacobson’s arrests, residents, business owners and fellow city officials called for his resignation and said they wanted to limit his power. Jacobson’s legal problems made national news. Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s CBC News wrote about Hebron in April 2016. It’s headline: “He runs the town. He’s accused of doing crack. And he won’t step down. Welcome to Hebron, Illinois.”
Before Jacobson, the village’s longstanding claim to regional fame was its 1952 state high school basketball championship and the local water tower commemorating the victory.
“As far as anything that has happened in the past, it’s done,” Martinez said. “We aren’t looking back. [Hebron] is a nice community. I can’t say that enough. This will be a very good place for businesses to start.”
Local businesses owners are hopeful that new leadership will bring change to the town.
Debra Mindham, owner of Hazel’s Diner and Bakery on Main Street, said that she feels it will take time to turn around the town’s reputation, but she said she hopes Martinez can do it.
“I am hoping she can help us become the great little town we once were and end the mismanagement,” she said. “I think some things that have been done have been in very bad judgment. … We have such vast possibilities for growth, but how many people are going to come here knowing our history of leadership?”
Longtime business owner Mary Noonan, who operates the ice cream shop Dari on Main Street, said she thinks Martinez will be good for Hebron.
“She’s been very positive and outgoing,” she said. “People that don’t know her want to say hi and see what she is planning for our little town. We hope for the best, and I am sure it’s going to happen.”