DECATUR — Community leaders named Macon County Sheriff Howard G. Buffett as the latest inductee to Decatur’s Wall of Fame on Tuesday, citing support for Decatur that has included tens of millions of dollars in donations in recent years.
Buffett joins 26 other inductees on the wall in the lobby of the Decatur Civic Center, 1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza.
“We all love him and thank him,” said former Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider, who appointed Buffett to take over his position in September.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe announced the winner Tuesday morning before the 65th Annual Community Thanksgiving Luncheon. She called Buffett “a man of purpose” whose contributions to the community go beyond simply writing checks. She said it seems like every week Buffett is doing something new for the community.
“With everything he does, he is trying to make a difference,” she said. “Thank you for everything you do.”
Buffett, a 62-year-old philanthropist and son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, was named sheriff Sept. 15 after Schneider retired, citing stress and health-related reasons. He is set to serve until the end of the term in November 2018; he has said he will not seek the office in the upcoming election.
“It’s an honor to be selected for this, but I honestly feel there are so many people that work much harder and make bigger sacrifices than I do,” Buffett said.
Buffett said the award came as a surprise because he feels like there are many more deserving people in the community.
“I don’t think of me as needing to be up there,” Buffett said.
Last year’s inductees were former Macon County Sheriff Roger Walker Jr. and longtime Archer Daniels Midland Co. Chairman Dwayne Andreas.
Buffett’s donations to the Decatur community in recent years have touched a wide variety of areas, from funding for the Boys and Girls Club of Decatur to money for an amphitheater in Nelson Park to support for a new city-owned fiber network.
“I had it instilled in me that you have to be in the community and be a part of the community,” he said.
Most of Buffett’s recent donations have been tied to law enforcement, including consultants to look at improvements for the Macon County jail, police vehicles and a program targeted at addressing opioid addiction.
In October 2016, he pledged $15 million to build a law enforcement training center on the city’s south side, where police recruits from around the state are housed and trained for 12- to 14-week sessions. The foundation in October announced that it would build a new $4.2 million facility nearby for the Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center, which opens Jan. 1.
“If we build something unique here, it makes Decatur a destination by itself for law enforcement,” he said, explaining the thought process behind some of those gifts. “And I know how to do that in law enforcement, but I don’t know how to do that for other things.”
For example, Buffett said, he writes checks to the Children’s Museum of Illinois and Scovill Zoo because he doesn’t know how to make those organizations the best or most unique in the state, but he believes others can.
Most recently, the Decatur City Council on Monday voted to accept a $1 million grant from the Buffett Foundation to pay for neighborhood revitalization efforts.
Buffett said he supported the neighborhood revitalization effort in part because he believes in improving the community so people want to live in Decatur.
“There’s a lot of good people in those neighborhoods but they don't have the resources to do what they would like to do,” Buffett said. “So the city’s got to do it for them and that takes a lot of money sometimes.”