DeKALB – In 1977, the city of DeKalb swore in its first female mayor, 35-year-old Judy King.
Joseph Walsh II, president and CEO of the DeKalb-based Walsh and Associates financial consulting firm, remembers meeting her for the first time as a 24-year-old attempting to acquire a license to sell alcohol.
“We were both youngsters,” Walsh said.
Walsh’s memories were all positive of King, who passed away last week at the age of 76.
“She was just a good person and wanted to represent the community as best she could,” Walsh said.
Walsh became close friends with King and her second husband, Burley Bechdolt, after being the former mayor’s financial adviser for the past 25 to 30 years.
“As soon as you meet her, she’s very engaging and participatory,” he said. “She knew tons about theater, tons about politics and was a very sharp individual who was very active in her community.”
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said King-Bechdolt was his replacement as a Kaneland High School teacher when he was drafted into the military in 1967, which is how the two got to know each other.
“I remember her as a very personable and active person in the community, a woman of many interests and talents, and I think she served the city well,” Smith said. “Our paths crossed many times, and I’m certainly the richer for it.”
Former Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos served as an alderwoman while King-Bechdolt was mayor and said one of the landmark decisions she made was the utilization of Barb City Manor, which had initially been the DeKalb Public Hospital.
“One of the things she did was to spearhead a movement to utilize the facility for its present purpose, which has turned into a wonderful thing for the community for generations,” Chronopoulos said. “She worked very hard for that.”
Chronopoulos admitted there were ups and downs in their working relationship, but King-Bechdolt worked very hard for the city and did the best she could to represent her constituency.