If Elmhurst Was Dusted for Fingerprints, Darrell Whistler's Mark Would be Found Everywhere
Some think they know him from the Zoning and Planning Commission, but there's so much more to this 41-year Elmhurst resident.
In the last 14 years, Darrell Whistler has received 10 awards from a multitude of Elmhurst organizations.
In 1996, the Elmhurst Jaycees gave him its Distinguished Service Award. In 2003, the Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst named him its Lay Person of the Year. And just a few months ago, Elmhurst College graced him with its Community Service Recognition Award.
"Darrell Whistler is one of the best men I know," said Paul Koch, a member of the Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare Board of Governors, of which Whistler is chairman.
These recognitions no doubt reflect Whistler's lifetime investment in Elmhurst.
"I've got my fingerprints on an awful lot of things," Whistler said. "If you really think about the facts of [my] starting in 1969 on the Zoning and Planning Commission [and] working with seven mayors, you can't deny that I've been involved in a lot of stuff."
The "stuff" Whistler refers to is that in addition to chairing the Zoning and Planning Commission and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare Board of Governors, he is on the Board of Trustees at Elmhurst Hospital and the Board of Directors for the Elmhurst Symphony, and he is vice president and director of Community Bank of Elmhurst. He also serves on other committees and commissions within the community.
But Whistler doesn't like the limelight. He prefers to work with a team of his peers to accomplish goals. And, he likes to keep it positive.
"I don't like to get involved in negative things," Whistler said. "I tell my Zoning Commission people, 'Don't get all hung up. If you've got an opinion that's fine, it's OK to talk about it.' And the way that we arrive at the right conclusion in many of the things we do is because we've learned to talk together."
Healthy conversation and building relationships is what Whistler believes makes a community.
"It's all about consensus," he said. "I always say doing the right thing is one thing, but the right thing means different things to different people. I lose a lot of sleep sometimes after zoning meetings. I'll come home and ask myself, 'Did I do the right thing? Did I say the right thing? I want it to be a consensus view of what's right for this community."
While occasionally the citizens of Elmhurst may disagree with the decisions Whistler makes as chairman of the Zoning and Planning Commission, many agree that if there was such a title, Whistler could be named Mr. Elmhurst because of his sincere caring about everything Elmhurst.
In his home you'll find Elmhurst memorabilia, including a commemorative plate from the 1986 Sesquicentennial celebrating Elmhurst's first 150 years as a community; an engraved shovel that was given to him at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new hospital, which is slated to open in June; and several paintings by his favorite Elmhurst artist, Bruce Petersen.
"Bruce is very active in the Elmhurst Art Museum and Artist Guild," Whistler said. "I bought my most valued Lincoln drawing from him."
An avid Lincoln collector, Whistler discovered the one-of-a-kind Lincoln sketch while visiting Petersen's home. The sketch portrays Lincoln standing contemplatively while troubling world events seem to swirl in the background.
According to Whistler, Petersen's wife didn't want him to sell the Lincoln portrait, but Petersen did so because of his close friendship with Whistler.
"I first met Bruce when I was president of the Elmhurst Jaycees," Whistler said. "And we've been friends ever since."
Whistler's support of Petersen is just one example of his connecting with the people of Elmhurst. And he tells everyone he meets that Elmhurst is the greatest community around.
"When Dorothy and I came from Kansas, we chose not to pick a community right away," Whistler said. "We rented for a year and we looked at communities—not houses, but communities—and that's why we chose Elmhurst."
Forty-one years ago, the Whistlers chose Elmhurst because of its hospital, the college, the park district and the school district and their reputation of excellence.
"You add on top of that our tremendous breadth and depth of churches in our community," he said. "You take the Lizzadro Museum, which is probably the only one (of its kind) in the country that I know of, and you just keep adding to that and everything that is going on here ... and that is (why it's easy) to love this great community."