Longtime Kane County Board Chairman Phil Elfstrom Dies at 88

Longtime Kane County Board Chairman Phil Elfstrom Dies at 88

“Legendary.” “Visionary.” “Trailblazing.” “Brilliant.” “Aggressive.” … “The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table.”

Those are just a few of the words and phrases used to describe Phil Elfstrom, the Kane County Board chairman who will be long remembered for bringing bike trails and Kane County Cougars baseball to our area. Elfstrom died Sunday at the Holmstad Retirement Community in Batavia at the age of 88.

Elfstrom served on the Kane County Board from 1969 to 1992 and as its chairman from 1970 to 1982. He was president of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County from 1982 to 1990.

Phil Elfstrom in his Kane County Office. (CREDIT: Photo by Donnell Collins, via NIU archives. Originally published in July 1989 edition of Illinois Issues.)

During his time in office, Kane County saw some of its most terrific growth. The County Board in those days made landmark accomplishments that are included but not limited to the establishment of the Kane County Government Center in Geneva and Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles, the Fabyan Parkway bridge and the Settler’s Hill Landfill, which is now the home of the Kane County Cougars’ Northwestern Medical Field, once known as Elfstrom Stadium.

A story in the Northern Illinois University Library archives written by Paul M. Krawzak says Elfstrom was born in Evanston, reared in Libertyville and Wheaton, and in 1958 moved to Batavia, where he lived ever since.

Elfstrom was the longtime owner Bader Publishing Co, which he sold in 1982, and owned real estate in and around the Batavia area, but he will be most remembered for his efforts as Kane County Board chairman.

According to the NIU library article, originally published in the July 1989 edition of Illinois Issues, Elfstrom was best known statewide and nationally as a pioneer of bicycle paths. More than 60 miles of trails now snake through Kane County, including the popular Fox River Trail.

“I like to think that I’ve left things a little bit better than I found them,” he said in that article.

His terms in office were not without controversy. In the 1980s, his efforts to condemn parcels of property for bicycle paths were hotly contested, and concerns about the breadth of his power and influence ultimately led to changing the County Board chairman position to an elected position rather than as an appointment by County Board members.

Kane County community leaders repeatedly praised his accomplishments.

“We will miss Phil Elfstrom,” Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said. “The legacy that he left Kane County is enormous and impressive. I had the privilege of serving on the Public Building Commission when Phil was its chairman. He was a force of nature in those meetings and made everything we did together fun.”

In an article by Susan Sarkauskas in the Daily Herald, Kane County Board member John Hoscheit described Elfstrom as a visionary.

“He began the process for people to focus on the importance of the forest preserves and how they could benefit the community,” Hoschiet said. “He was, literally, a trail blazer in establishing the bike trail system. … Really, what we’ve been doing over the last 20 years is just a continuation of what he started.”

(CREDIT: Forest Preserve District of Kane County)

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said Elfstrom worked day and night to enhance the quality of life in Kane County.

“Many of his projects, while sometimes controversial, sought to create a self-sustaining government structure which brought new programs into place as well as new revenues which would support the county both today and into the future,” he said. “Thus, now we have the impressive network of bike trials, forest preserves, and road and bridge expansions along with the Cougar stadium that serve thousands of people each year.

“Phil felt fortunate that his friends came from both political parties and that his circle of close personal friends included long time supporter Kathy Youssi and his many neighbors at the Holmstad Towne Center, where he resided in later years.”

Elfstrom received many honors over the years. He was named Batavia’s Citizen of the Year in 1982, and in 1998 he was honored by the Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley.

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed Elfstrom to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, according to the American Presidency Project’s website.

Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 4, 2017, at Moss Family Funeral Home 209 South Batavia Ave. Batavia, IL. An additional hour of visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the time of the service at the funeral home on Monday.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, June 5, 2017, at Moss Family Funeral Home. Interment will follow the service in West Batavia Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to Covenant Care Hospice Foundation 3755 East Main St., Suite 165, St. Charles, IL 60174.