Small Town Tours Meet Residents Where They Live

Illinois may be home to the third largest city in the U.S., but along with Chicago are nearly 1,500 other municipalities. More than half, or 763 towns, have fewer than 1,000 residents. The two smallest towns in Illinois are Valley City and Burton, each with a listed population of 13. Over 1,100 Illinois towns have a population less than 5,000 people. 

State Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) and State Senator Terri Bryant recently embarked on ‘Small Town Tours’ throughout the 58th Senate District and 116th Representative District. This summer’s tours rolled through eight southern Illinois communities, including McLeansboro, Benton, Albion, Mount Carmel, Carmi, Fairfield, Murphysboro, and Mt. Vernon. These events were informal forums where attendees had the opportunity to speak with their elected officials one-on-one about topics important to them. These outreach events were open to the public and constituents could stop in, grab a light refreshment, and ask about state issues.

“I always look forward to enjoying conversations with my constituents to get to know them better and get to know the issues that matter to them,” Rep. Severin stated. “These events are very helpful as we continue to push for important legislation to positively impact our residents and communities.”

State Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) is also very active in her local communities, hosting regular traveling office hours in various locations, prescription drug drop-off events, and avidly attending community events such as pancake breakfasts and chili suppers. Rep. Hammond recently hosted a second round of Summer Traveling Office Hours, with a third round also being scheduled.

“My staff and I are here to help,” Rep. Hammond stated. “I look forward to these small town events every year. I encourage area residents to come see us any time.”

Across the U.S., the Census Bureau estimates that fewer than 5,000 people live in 76 percent of the nation’s 19,500 incorporated areas. The cost of living is generally lower in small towns. Home prices, rent, groceries and consumer goods are also cheaper than what they would be in major metropolitan areas. The average cost of living index is 100. Washington, located in Tazewell County near Peoria, has a population of 16,000 and cost of living index of 84. Chicago’s cost of living index is 106. Natural scenery, security and familiarity are other positive factors of living in a small town. 

Traffic is also a huge issue for many people, especially for those who live around Chicagoland. Parking can also be a nightmare in big or congested cities. Small towns offer lower crime rates, and many are also close to recreational areas such as state parks, local parks, lakes, rivers, and hiking/biking trails. One popular website lists Galena as the best small town to live in Illinois, with Nauvoo being the prettiest, according to the report.