Mayor of Charleston dies Thursday morning


Jason Howell

Charleston Mayor Larry Rennels displays the next year’s fiscal budget at the conclusion of the City Council meeting on April 21 at City Hall. Rennels died Thursday morning.

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as of 9 p.m. 6/25/15.

Charleston Mayor Larry Rennels died at about 7 a.m. Thursday at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon. He was 67.

Coles County Coroner Ed Schniers said the results of an autopsy performed Thursday would be available in four to six weeks.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at Adams Funeral Chapel in Charleston.

Rennels served as a council member for 16 years before he was sworn in as Charleston mayor in May 2013.

He was a lifelong Charleston resident and ran his family business, Rennels TV & Appliance, from 1987 until he retired and closed shop in 2010.

Ken Hoover, the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, said Rennels had grown up in the church and continued to be an active member.

Rennels has served on the board of directors and board of elders and was previously president of the congregation.

Hoover said a driving force for Rennels was his faith in God, which he lived out not only through worship, but also through participating in weekly Bible study groups, bringing his expertise in sound and video systems to the church, and taking on various leadership roles.

“Serving was a vital part of who he was, whether it was here at church giving his time and abilities, or whether it’s to the city of Charleston or even to Eastern Illinois University,” Hoover said.

Rennels earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

After a career as a development engineer for 11 years at Motorola, Inc. and being product manager for International Communications Products, Rennels returned to Charleston with his wife to raise their two sons.

Charleston Fire Chief Pat Goodwin said he has known Rennels for the nearly 30 years he lived in Charleston.

Goodwin said Rennels provided emergency responders with “excellent advice” when they had problems with communication and has supported actions of the fire department.

“He was very supportive of the city and the community he served,” Goodwin said. “If there was a big incident day or night, something involving the city as far as emergency response, the mayor was there.”

Rennels was first elected to the City Council nearly 20 years ago in 1997.

Cindy White, the president of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, said she started her position in 1998 when Rennels was chairman of the board of directors.

Back then, White and Rennels were in touch on a daily basis, as the chamber was in a rebuilding and recruiting phase, she said.

White said Rennels kept the lines of communication open and has maintained his support of the chamber during his time on City Council.

“He always followed through on everything,” she said. “Anything he said, you would know that he had researched it and you would know he had information and data to back up everything.”

White said Rennels brought his perspective as a small business owner to his involvement with city government, and he always encouraged collaboration among the chamber, Charleston, Eastern and the business community.

“(He was) very supportive of community,” she said. “Obviously he donated a lot of time and effort because he loved Charleston.”

President David Glassman sent an email to students Thursday morning informing them of Rennels’ death and stating he was a “friend and advocate” of the university.

“I found him to be a man of great knowledge, wisdom and integrity,” Glassman wrote in the email.

Rennels’ term as mayor would have ended in April 2017. Council member Brandon Combs is currently the mayor pro-tem for Charleston.

However, city officials were unavailable for comment on how the mayoral position would be assumed.


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].