International man of commitment

By Gus Bode

He has helped reconstruct and form communities in more than seven countries and has devoted his career to improving his own. Carbondale City Councilman Joel Fritzler commits himself to any project he takes on.

Fritzler, 45, is serving his first term on the city council and has two years left on his term. He said he wanted to become more involved in the community and decided the best way to do so was to become a member of the city council.

With a background in construction, business administration and management and rural community development, Fritzler knew he had a lot to contribute to Carbondale.


“I’ve always enjoyed team sports, and I wanted to be part of the team,” Fritzler said.

Fritzler, a “hoosier” by nature, moved from Indiana to Oregon with his family when he was 8 years old. After high school, he attended Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore., and graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management.

He worked in a ski shop in Oregon for the next four years, and in 1990, he joined the Peace Corps. Fritzler was sent to Botswana, where he taught carpentry skills to locals.

After a year and a half, he was transferred to a small village on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, where he taught basic business skills, such as accounting concepts and personnel management, he said.

Fritzler finished his last six months and returned home but not for long. He said his plan was to attend graduate school, but friends convinced him it could wait after he was offered a job in Malawi by the United Nations.

After two years of working with a refugee project in Malawi, he returned home and enrolled in the rural community development graduate program at Illinois State University.

In 1996, as he was finishing graduate school, he visited Carbondale for the first time during an interview to become the director of the Carbondale Main Street program, where he worked for two and a half years.


Fritzler said it was the drive from Bloomington-Normal to southern Illinois that first attracted him to the area.

“All of a sudden there were trees and rolling hills and lakes,” he said. “I thought, this is a nice place – I could live here.”

Before he moved to southern Illinois, Fritzler met his wife, Julie, who was also an ISU student. The two have been married for about 10 years and have a cat named Henry.

Fritzler said he and his wife enjoy spending time in the beautiful areas of southern Illinois, such as Little Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods and Giant City State Park.

For the last two years, Fritzler has been a research project specialist in the Office of Research Development and Administration at SIUC.

In addition, he has volunteered for the American Red Cross for the last eight years.

Sandy Webster, director of the Red Cross Little Egypt Network, describes Fritzler as a very driven, hard-working individual with excellent leadership skills.

She said he takes his commitment to the city very seriously and is always brainstorming ways to improve things.

“He has a vision to see what our community needs,” Webster said. “He genuinely cares about the needs of the community.”

Fritzler said being a council member is a good way to experience how change takes place, even though he is usually in the minority during votes. He said he would probably run again when his term is up and will continue with his efforts to improve all aspects of the city.

“There is so much potential here if we all work together,” he said.

Liz Choate can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 258 or [email protected]