Photo by Michael Gilbert
Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett (left) and Ald. Marty Kleefisch pose for a photo with resident Linda Kaiser at the council meeting last Thursday. Kaiser was one of the winners of the city’s Beautification Awards contest.
A dozen years ago, Ald. Marty Kleefisch (1st Ward) was the newly appointed chairman of the Palos Hills Beautification Committee and looking for a way to entice residents to take pride in their properties and make the city more aesthetically pleasing.
The alderman created a friendly competition to honor those residences and businesses that go above and beyond the norm when it comes to landscaping and maintaining their property. Kleefisch’s idea was to start the Palos Hills Beautification Awards and 12 years later the contest is as strong as ever.
Last Thursday was the culmination of the contest with a packed house present at the city council meeting for a 20-minute ceremony to recognize the winners. Twenty-nine residences spanning all five wards as well as five businesses were honored at the meeting for having exceptionally landscaped properties. Many of the winners were in attendance at the meeting to receive their prizes – a certificate and a yard sign stating they were a winner in the contest – from Kleefisch and Mayor Gerald Bennett.
“This is one of the nicest events we hold each year because it is resident-centered and we get to honor some of our businesses as well,” Kleefisch said. “I was very pleased with the contest this year and was so happy to see a majority of the winners here.”
Bennett described last Thursday’s city council meeting as a “special night” for Palos Hills.
“We have with us tonight some very special people who did some very special things regarding the maintenance of their property,” Bennett said. “Each year this program continues to grow and as we tour our neighborhoods we can see the corporation and certainly the participation of the residents into the program to make our city beautiful.”
While the goal of the contest has remained the same these past 12 years, Kleefisch said the quality and overall beauty of the landscaping has improved.
“I think that more people are taking more pains to make their property respectable, and I think the fact that the winners put up those yard signs brings attention to the contest and it encourages people to try to get the award themselves the following year,” said Kleefisch.
For the first time in the contest’s history, a city entity was the recipient of an award. That went to the public works department who maintain city hall, the police department, city parks and the community resource building.
“(Public Works Commissioner) Dave (Weakley) and his staff have done a great job,” Kleefisch said. “Just look at how beautiful our city hall is.”
The honor was kept a secret from Weakley, who was visibly surprised when accepting the award.
“I wish I had because I would have asked the crew to come up (for the meeting),” he said. “They are the ones who truly deserve it. We appreciate it.”
The Beautification Contest is open to all single-and-multiple family residences, businesses, churches and schools, Kleefisch said. Residents have the option of nominating their own property or a neighbor’s, he said.
Members of the Palos Hills 39er’s Senior Club and the Community Resource and Recreation Department judge the contest by viewing all entries. Judging is based on the general appearance of buildings, fencing and edging as well as the overall landscaping of lawns, including any shrubs, trees and flower gardens that may be on the property.