“Honestly? No. It really hasn’t changed much,” said L. Bryan Williams, who owns an insurance company there.
The seat of Wayne County is right where we left it four years ago, 275 miles due south of Chicago, when I visited just before the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Why go then? Well, if you line up Illinois’ 102 counties by how they voted in the 2016 election, Cook County was at one end, with 74.4% voting for Hillary Clinton. And Wayne County was at the other end, with 84.3% voting for Trump.
Why return now? As we enter the Joe Biden administration at noon Wednesday, it seems worthwhile to circle back to Fairfield, and see how they’re doing and what they think about the four years past, where we are now, and where we’re going. Perhaps it’ll give a glimpse of what’s ahead.
There is one change here: even fewer jobs. When I visited in 2017, the big employer in town, Airtex, an automobile fuel pump manufacturer, had just shut down, sending nearly 1,000 jobs to Mexico and China. But the lights were still on and several dozen people were still here, administering. Now the lights are off. Even the skeleton crew is gone.
”The community has adapted to not having Airtex here,” said Williams. “It’s become a little bit more of a bedroom community. But you wouldn’t see anything startling.”
That depends on what startles a person.
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