Connor, Moroney Are Distinguished Alumni

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A veterinarian who is an innovator in the swine industry and a CEO who is an innovator in public housing–both graduates from Hillsboro High School–will be honored with this year’s Hillsboro Education Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Joseph Connor of Carthage Veterinary Services from the HHS class of 1970, and Montgomery County Housing Authority CEO Kelly Moroney from the class of 1980 will both be honored on Aug. 5, Old Settlers Thursday, from 2-4 p.m. at The Abbey on Broad, the former Church Street Pub.  Advance tickets are not required, and the award presentation will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Kelly Moroney

“I found my niche when I came here,” Kelly Moroney said of starting to work in 1992 at the Montgomery County Housing Authority.  That niche? “Trying to work for better living situations.”

Moroney’s work career began at the clerical level.  After working for three years for Art Salsi CPA on School Street in Hillsboro, then another eight years in the office at Asarco in Taylor Springs, she was hired at an entry level secretary position at the housing authority in April 1992.

Since then, “I have done just about every position here,” Moroney said, culminating in her appointment as CEO in 2005 after training for two years under Macoupin County Housing Authority CEO Peg Barkley.

During her 16 years as  CEO, she has changed the look of the housing authority from rows of barracks-style public housing to multi-family and single-family homes and apartments.

The numbers bear that out.  When she started, the Montgomery County Housing Authority managed 255 public housing units throughout the county and 89 federal Section 8 vouchers in which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidize rent from private landlords, provided they meet strict criteria.

And now? The only constant is the 89 Section 8 vouchers.  The number of typical public housing units has gone down from 255 to 141, but they have been replaced by 87 multi-family and single family HUD units, which in Hillsboro include the new units on Broad Street, Bluff Street, and the 50 new units that just replaced the old block Long Avenue housing.  Added to that, though, are what the housing authority calls “tax credit” single family homes (Liberty in Hillsboro and Freedom Place in Litchfield) and apartments (Brown Shoe in Litchfield), plus 32 market-rate apartment units (White Oaks in Hillsboro).

Where Moroney and the Montgomery County Housing Authority have gained attention from around the state, though, is through the use of Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) grants and tax credits to finance updating aging housing stock, such as the recently completed Long Avenue project.

“I kept looking for ways to build new housing, and HUD was not helping finance that,” Moroney said.  “So I hired Mike Niehaus of Windsor Development Group, and we started looking at other ways to finance projects.  IHDA and tax credits were the answer. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Moroney said that more than 10 other housing authorities have come to look at projects in Montgomery County for inspiration.

“All the housing authorities are jumping on the bandwagon,” the CEO said.  “The stock of public housing is aging all over the state, and everyone is looking for solutions.”

For the work she had done in changing the face of public housing even before Long Avenue was begun, Moroney earned a statewide award in 2018 for “outstanding Achievement for Operational Excellence” from the Illinois Association of Housing Authorities, and has consistently achieved “high performer” scores in management of housing units.

Even though the spectacular transformation of Long Avenue in Hillsboro is a crowning jewel with a similar project at Kirk Terrace in Litchfield now in the pre-development stage, Moroney is most proud of the people the new developments are helping.

“I’m really proud of it for the kids,” she said.  “They’re not ashamed of where they live.  It gives them a better outlook, and they have a lot more confidence.  I really feel good about that.”

Dr. Joseph Connor

A man who is credited with helping to revive the Midwest swine industry, Dr. Joseph Connor of Carthage grew up in Hillsboro and has become one of the foremost swine veterinarians in the world.

He grew up on a farm in Hillsboro, and after graduating from Hillsboro High School in 1970, earned a bachelor of science degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Illinois in 1974, and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the prestigious U of I program in 1976.  He later went on to earn a master of science in veterinary medicine from the University of Minnesota in 2006, and completed the executive veterinary program with the U of I in 2009.

He founded Carthage Veterinary Service in 1980 and built his client service network to become one of the foremost swine veterinarians in the world.  The internationally-known company now employs nine veterinarians, and its subsidiary, Professional Swine Management, employs 360 with relationships with over half a million sows in the United States throughout all stages of pork production.

His vision and tireless effort have earned numerous awards and accolades over the years, most recently as the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) 2020 Distinguished Service Award winner.

According to the IPPA, “Dr. Connor has been a leader in many technologies including segregated production, wean-to-fish technology, positive pressure filtration, and disease elimination.”

He also earned the Dr. Erwin Small Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008, was the first honorary member of the Japanese Association of Swine Veterinarians 

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