This week we are celebrating the retirement of Billie Cheek as an Alderman of the Atlanta City Council. Cheek has served on the council for 38 years. Aldermen help to govern the city, while making decisions and presentations for the betterment of Atlanta. Cheek has seen and worked on many changes throughout her time serving as an Alderman.
Cheek has strong ties to Atlanta, she is fourth generation in the city. She attended Atlanta High School and has three siblings. Her parents are E.W. Baldwin and Lena Marie Zimmerman, her siblings include two older sisters and one younger brother. Cheek was very involved in high school, especially with chorus.
In the beginning of our discussion about her time as an Alderman, Cheek stated, “When I went on the council about 40 years ago, I was the first woman to my knowledge to be on the council. I feel like I wanted to give back to the community, and over the years I doubt that I have missed 10 meetings. We accomplished and are accomplishing a lot here in Atlanta.” Cheek was very honored to be chosen to serve on the council.
Her favorite part about being on the council was serving for the committee she worked on. Her main committee was Parks and Buildings, and she led that committee every year that she was on the council. On that committee, they did a lot of changes to downtown Atlanta. “I have worked well with everybody on the council, even through changes of council members,” said Cheek.
Three big changes that Cheek has worked on and seen during her time as an Alderman include: the decorative downtown lighting on the square, the new welcome sign, and the addition of the golf course. The new welcome sign was a big project that Cheek worked on. She stated, “It was a great ordeal. We had to buy the land and work with an architect to make our ideas a reality. The sign was based on the design of the library.”
North Greens Golf Course was a big addition to Atlanta. The 9-hole course was completed in 1997 and has been a terrific asset to the city. While discussing this project, Cheek pointed out that, “Many golf courses in small towns throughout Central Illinois have run into some hard times, but we have prevailed. We have done really well with the golf course.” Cheek has not only been committed to Atlanta through projects with the city council, but with two other groups that have the purpose of making the city a better place.
She was one of the founders of a group called the “A-Team”. This group worked to keep small towns going and did a study with a group from Western Illinois University to learn what needed to be improved in Atlanta. Cheek informed, “This was the beginning of drastic changes to the city.” She was also on the first committee to explore consolidation of the individual high schools. For the last 15 years Cheek has been in a group called the betterment group, who does a lot of work for the whole city, specifically downtown.
One last piece of advice she wants to pass on to the future aldermen is, “Work well with the rest of the alderman and the mayor. Know that we can accomplish whatever we set out to do. The projects are never so great we can’t handle it. They are always a great success.” It is apparent that the work Cheek has put in has paid off, and that she has accomplished the goals she strived to achieve.
The city of Atlanta is a better place because of all of the hard work that Billie Cheek has put in throughout her last 38 years as an Alderman. All future Aldermen of Atlanta have a great role model to look up to. Thank you, Billie, for all you have done to make a small town in our Olympia community a better place.