HOME AT LAST
Larry Arft has spent a 40-year career working in public service. He started in Berkley, Mo., before moving on to the Chicago suburbs, working as village administrator in Bolingbrook and Morton Grove. But he’s finally found a place he can call home in Beloit.
“My wife, Karen, and I have lived in five communities in three different states, but we like Beloit the most,” says Arft, who was hired as city manager in 2003 and has recently retired. “The biggest thing is the people. It’s a friendly open atmosphere. New people are welcomed into the social fabric of the community. You don’t have to be a third or fourth generation resident to be engaged in the community.”
Arft grew up in the St. Louis area. As a child he enjoyed nature; as a teenager, he worked on a farm. He played baseball and football throughout school, even playing college football at Northeastern (now Truman State University). He left school in the 1960s to join the Army for three years, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. “I saw a lot of the world,” he says. “It broadened my experiences and helped me mature.” Arft returned to college, graduating magna cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, before going to graduate school. He developed an interest in government when he accepted an internship with a St. Louis municipality in the early 1970s.
During Arft’s tenure from 2003-2015, Beloit saw a strong revitalization in its downtown, riverfront, and tree-lined neighborhoods. Arft points to other accomplishments, such as the construction of the Ken Hendricks Memorial Bridge and attractions like the city’s award-winning farmers market.
Arft encourages newcomers to Beloit to get involved and ‘watch the city in action.’ Now that he’s retired, he’s taken his own advice. Larry enjoys exercise, downhill skiing, bicycling and taking in car shows. Karen stays busy by volunteering for various organizations across the city.
“We’ve adopted Beloit as our hometown,” Arft says. “We’re both passionate about the city and about making it a better place. I’ve had the opportunity to move to other cities, but I’ve never pursued them. We plan on staying right here in Beloit.”
Larry Arft was Beloit City Manager from 2003-2015