In 1976, C.P. Hall had just purchased his house in the Hollywood section of Brookfield when he flipped his radio dial to WCFL-AM and heard the news.
The village’s president, Philip Hollinger, was going to federal prison after being convicted of tax evasion and extortion.
“I was thinking, ‘Where did I just move to?'” Hall recalled.
But a little more than a decade later, he was an up-and-coming member of the party Hollinger helped create and which later repudiated him: the Peoples Economy Party or PEP.
And for 18 of the past 24 years, Hall has been a member of the village’s board of trustees. He served two different two-term stretches as a trustee from 1991 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2015. Prior to his third and fourth terms, Hall served as trustee from 2005-07, appointed to replace Michael Garvey, who had been elected president in 2005.
On Monday night, Hall, who will turn 70 in June, bade farewell as a trustee. He was forced to leave the board because of the village’s term-limit law, another reminder of the era in which he first came to Brookfield.
Following Hollinger’s conviction, Brookfield voters passed a referendum setting a limit of two consecutive terms for village trustee or president. Hollinger’s 15 years as president had provided that lesson.
Hall came to Brookfield from Memphis, Tennessee, where, after serving as an infantry officer for a year in Vietnam, he had worked for his grandfather’s firm, the C.P. Hall Company, an industrial chemical business.
After five and a half years in Memphis, Hall was assigned to the firm’s suburban Chicago outpost. In Brookfield he joined the Kiwanis Club, where he met Mylon Fisher and his compadres in the United We Care Party.
Fisher was staunchly anti-Hollinger and that appealed to Hall, but Hall also admired PEP’s Pierce McCabe, who defeated Hollinger for president in 1981, when Hollinger made a bid to reclaim the seat after serving 14 months in federal prison.
“The problem was they were against Hollinger, but they didn’t know what they wanted to do,” Hall said. “I felt Pierce [McCabe] was someone who’d done a good job and had not welcomed Hollinger back to the PEP Party.”
McCabe rewarded that confidence by naming Hall to the Plan Commission in 1988. He left that advisory board in 1989 when Kevin Close was elected president, then ended up getting elected to the board himself two years later, in 1991.
Throughout his time on the board, Hall has believed that the president and trustees’ job was to oversee, to give the professional staff latitude to accomplish tasks.
“When someone comes to you and says, ‘We’re going to do it just like the big guys do it downtown,’ then alarm bells should go off,” Hall said. “You are there as a representative of the folks who elected you. Part of the problem with people in village government is you have people who don’t realize what the job is and are not comfortable doing the job once they get there.”
Hall’s time in village government coincided with some periods of strife. He was on the board when the idea of constructing of a six-story condo building at Brookfield and Forest avenues was viewed by some as calamitous.
“There’s no reason that building was ever going to be a problem,” Hall said. “But there were some who believed that was the end of the world as we knew it.”
And Hall was a trustee when President Thomas Sequens died in office. That led to a period of instability within the village and PEP, in particular, and ushered the party out of power in 2001.
“Everyone was tugged in four different directions at one time, and there were a whole bunch of oddball variables,” said Hall, who believes Sequens, who had been ill for a long time, should have resigned and allowed an orderly transition.
Some issues, such as roads, sewers and water service, the village trustees will always have to struggle with, said Hall. Others, such as the village’s difficulty in setting a course for economic development can be self-inflicted.
Only in the past couple of years has the village board agreed on a path for economic development after a failed bid to find consensus in the late 1990s.
Hall counts the approval of the six-story condo as a win during his time in office, as well as his opposition to a second water tower and, more recently, the village board’s rejection of a parking lot for Riverside-Brookfield High School.
“The truth is there wasn’t a good choice or a bad choice,” Hall said. “There were two plausible choices and I think we did the right thing.”