MENDOTA – Despite the pandemic canceling this year’s Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, the Chamber still handed out its annual awards. The recipient of the 2020 Horace D. Hume Outstanding Service Award is Todd Phalen.
Phalen grew up in Mendota, having advanced through the school system from Blackstone Elementary to Northbrook Middle School to Mendota High School, where he graduated in 1983. He had two years of schooling at IVCC before graduating from Illinois State University in 1987. He participated in football, basketball and track at MHS, and football at IVCC. While at MHS, he served on the Student Council, attended Boys State and was the Sons of American Revolution award winner. He is married to Lynn and they have two daughters, Olivia and Mallary. He is the son of Betty Phalen and the late Harry Phalen.
Phalen has been employed as the Director of Sales at Black Bros. Co. in Mendota for 20 years. He currently serves as treasurer of the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA) after serving as a board member.
Phalen’s service to the community and other involvements are many. He started out helping with the Sweet Corn Festival Queen Pageant, then helped with the Sweet Corn Festival in general before becoming a Chamber Board member and eventually serving as Chamber President in 2003.
“Jeff Simonton and Steve Gahan both helped me to get involved in the Chamber,” he said. “I met and worked with many great people over the years and formed some friendships with people I would probably not have met otherwise.”
Phalen is currently a member of the Mendota Lions Club, Mendota Elks Lodge and Mendota Moose Lodge. He works in the Lions Club’s famous corn dog trailer every year for Sweet Corn Festivals, the Tri-County Fair and the Fourth of July celebration, plus is a past president of the Lions Club. He has previously been elected to the IVCC Board of Trustees for a six-year term and served on the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Board.
Also, he has been a registered football and basketball official with the Illinois High School Association for more than 35 years, and has coached and officiated for the Mendota Area Youth Soccer league.
The banquet room at the Mendota Civic Center is usually filled with suspense when clues to the identity of the award winners are read during the dinner, but with the dinner not being held this year, Chamber President/CEO Shelby Weide had to come up with another way of giving them the news. In Phalen’s case, his wife, Lynn, made sure he was outside at his house and Weide paid a visit to present him with the award.
“It was very humbling to win the H.D. Hume Award for Outstanding Service, which means so much to our community,” noted Phalen. “When you read the list of former winners it is like the Who’s Who list of business owners and community leaders that all worked to make Mendota the ‘World’s Greatest Little City.’”
Being the recipient of the award was also special to Phalen in that his dad, Harry, shared the honor with business partner Dale Fischer in 2002.
“I am very proud to have won this award 18 years after my dad and Dale won it,” he said. “They owned and operated Fischer & Phalen Phillips 66 and Meriden Street Trailer Sales. I worked for both of them growing up in the trailer business. They expected you to work hard and be respectful of not only them, but the customers as well. I learned a lot from both of them.”
While attending ISU, Phalen just assumed he would be locating to a bigger city to enter the job market after getting his Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management, but he was fortunate to find a job at LCN Closers in Princeton. After getting married, he and Lynn decided there was no better place to raise their children with both of their parents still living in Mendota.
“It was a great experience for our kids growing up with both sets of grandparents being in the same town,” he said.
Being in Mendota also allowed Phalen to give back to the community where he was born and raised, and he plans to continue that as long as he can.
“I am honored to receive this award and appreciate it,” he said. “I enjoyed all the volunteer work over the years and good times working with others for the improvement of our city. I hope I am able to continue to help volunteer in the future and possibly down the road in my retirement years.”