Engineer, Former State Lawmaker, Tom Berns Dies At Age 72
Friends of former state representative Tom Berns say his one term in the Illinois House was only a small part of his public service.
Berns, who died Monday at age 72, was elected to the Illinois House 104th District in 2000, succeeding Republican Tim Johnson, who left to serve in the U.S. House.
But after redistricting, the Urbana Republican found himself in the Democratic-leaning 103rd House district. He was defeated for reelection in 2002 by Democrat Naomi Jakobsson, in a race that the News-Gazette called the most expensive in the state.
Longtime friend Tom Costello, says Berns’ background as an engineer made him a goal-oriented person who tended to look beyond party labels.
“He was not very party-specific,” said Costello. “Though he was a Republican representative, everybody felt real comfortable going to him and sharing what their issues were, and he was one that would listen. So I think that was something that made his very special.”
Besides serving in the Illinois House, Berns served for many years on the board of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, where Costello was a manager. Berns also served on the boards of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium, the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation and Clark-Lindsey Village.
Berns, a civil engineer, launched the Urbana engineering firm of Berns Clancy and Associates with Edward Clancy in February, 1975. Berns was still the firm’s president at the time of his death.
Clancy, the firm’s vice-president, said Berns became the face of the company.
“He was concerned about the client,” said Clancy of Berns. “He made sure the client got the product, got a good product, got a correct product. He was always concerned about the budget and the client’s schedule.”
Clancy and Costello confirmed that Berns died Monday at a St. Louis hospital, where he had recently undergone heart surgery. He’s survived by his wife Jeannie, two children and four grandchildren.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that Berns Clancy and Associates had an office in Danville. That office has since closed. - JM 2/21/18