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Thank You Noel Oliver

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Travels that spanned from growing up in East St. Louis, moving to San Diego then back to Illinois, and even a trip to Taiwan. A career as a public servant beginning with law enforcement, evolving into a small business owner, and now selling musical equipment and wrapping up a nine-year tenure on the MDH Board of Directors. Throughout Noel Oliver’s career he served in various roles.

“I was born in East St. Louis and was raised (there) through high school. I went to college in East St. Louis at a division of Southern Illinois for a little while, but wasn’t really satisfied with that. I had an older brother who lived in San Diego so I took a chance and went out to California to see what was out there. I went to school in San Diego, that was my first real interest in law enforcement,” said Oliver.

It didn’t take very long though for him to realize what he was missing back home. 

“When I was in San Diego - and not very long - I realized I left a young lady back in East St. Louis who was very important to me. I decided to come back and marry Judy,” admitted Oliver. “She’s been a good counsel to me, we’ve been married over 54 years now so I tend to listen to her. We’ve known each other since we were toddlers, my grandmother used to babysit her.”

His interest in law enforcement started Oliver on his initial career path.

“When I got back, I learned that the St. Louis City Police was hiring young people to be a cadet. It was preliminary law enforcement. I became a Cadet with the St. Louis Police, eventually graduated from its Academy and became a patrol officer in St. Louis.” 

A few years later Oliver applied and got accepted to the Illinois State Police Academy. At that time, the highest cadet in academic standing earned first choice of anywhere in the state. Oliver, earning that right, knew the area he wanted.

“I chose a place on the map, there were no major cities, no major highways in that district, and that was what I was looking for. That brought us to Macomb in 1968 and we’ve been here ever since.”

During his 25-year career with the ISP, Oliver advanced to the rank of Captain. Judy meanwhile owned her own accounting business, one she has since sold and currently works for the person who bought the business. 

“I’ve been to the FBI National Academy and received training, plus incidental training at Northwestern. As my assignment as Captain here at one point I taught Law Enforcement in the National Police Academy in Taiwan, which was a very unique experience and very rewarding.

“I was Commander of the District. I had my dream job and in a District that was great for me. Then they proposed early retirement for some of us old-timers,” said Oliver. “I was 48 years old and was considered an old-timer. They made me an offer of early retirement that was impossible to pass up. So I retired in 1993 from the State Police.”

Not ready to sit idly by, Oliver started work at Eastern Illinois University for a few years as a Traffic Safety Consultant then started a business marketing and selling high-end alarm systems. 

“I did quite well with that. I had a four-state area and enjoyed that except for the fact I was on the road four nights a week. After about four years I decided I didn’t need that, I wanted to be home.”

Extenuating circumstances actually led to his next career path in public service. It started with a meeting request from the Macomb Police Chief and then-Mayor of Macomb, and... 

“The next morning I started as the 911 Director for McDonough County,” said Oliver. “I served 10 years, and I retired.”

Oliver will continue his focus on something he’s been involved with for a few years now, the music industry. Their son Adam owns and operates Macomb Square Music. 

Throughout the week you can find Oliver selling guitars, ukuleles, and LP albums among other items.

“It’s exciting for me. I come in 3-4 days a week and spend a few hours trying to assist Adam and keep the business alive and thriving,” stated Oliver. “Macomb Square Music is not just a guitar store - that’s the basis of it, guitars and ukulele are a big seller - but we also sell LP albums. We probably have a thousand on hand right now you can sort through and buy. We’re beginning to do some recordings of individual music artists in town, and not as a business asset for us, but as a way to promote live music and to help local musicians get their first live recording done. 

“My son operates the recording side… he has a lot of expertise in that field and can help those artists,” said Oliver. “We also have a modern, well-equipped shop to do repairs on musical instruments on guitars, any of the string instruments, and even amplifiers. We have a young man that works part-time for us that’s a certified luthier, and actually built a couple of guitars from scratch.”

Those years of public service and the impressions he made led to his MDH Board appointment, and again it started with a phone call. 

“The County Board Chairman at the time (Scott Schwerer) called. He asked if I would serve on the Hospital Board. He said you have some unique characteristics I’m looking for. You’re not afraid to speak up, you will say your piece, and you think things through real well. Besides that, Dr. (Donald) Dexter wants you on the Board. I could not turn down Dr. Dexter and Scott, they are both people I admire,” said Oliver.

Much occurred during his nine-year tenure. He worked with two President/CEOs and seen the Board nearly turn over membership in that time. But for Oliver, one belief holds true. 

“Our Hospital is so critical to us, it’s so important to the community that we need to do whatever we can to make sure it is sustainable… We are becoming fiscally responsible, much more than what we have been in the past. We’re focusing on jobs we have to do and maintaining them, and not so aggressively seeking new costly ventures. I think we’re being a lot more conservative fiscally and I support that,” said Oliver, who also noted another project he’s proud to be associated with.

“I’m proud of the (Dolores Kator Switzer) Women’s Center. I can remember the very first time that was being discussed. It excited all of us, what it can do for the hospital. We all realized that if we focus on the women in our community, and be the best around to take care of them and their health needs, we actually have a new family as clients, customers and patients. If we can get the women in our community to be loyal and faithful to our hospital for the services we provide, then we automatically get the husband and children… so it’s a way of building the business and take care of an important resource. I’m excited about it, I cannot wait until it opens its doors and starts bringing people in. It’s a great project and I’m proud to be a part of it.” 

He mentioned something that other now-former MDH Board members said on what they will miss the most.

“Obviously the other Board members, I’ve made some really good friends. There are some great people on that Board,” admitted Oliver. “I’ll miss being able to influence the decisions. I haven’t always won, I remember some votes that went 8-1 and I was the one. But I still enjoyed the input and being able to influence and sway the discussions. There are important issues and the Board needs to have several different opinions. The Board cannot be a Board of agree-ers, it’s actually a Board of Directors. We need to provide that direction, I’ll miss being a part of that.”