When newly elected members of the Illinois House of Representatives take their seats in early January, the Sauk Valley will face two significant changes.
First, retiring state Rep. Jerry Mitchell, R-Sterling, will no longer represent the region’s core cities of Rock Falls, Sterling and Dixon, as he has for the past 18 years.
And second, the region’s core cities will not be included in the same House district for the first time in 20 years.
Mitchell’s current 90th House District linked the three cities for the past decade. Before that, the previous 73rd House District also contained Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed the rise in cooperation among Sauk Valley communities. We believe the cause of regionalism was advanced because the three cities shared a lawmaker.
In early January, that situation will change.
Dixon, part of the new 90th House District, will be represented by Tom Demmer, a 26-year-old Republican from Dixon.
Sterling and Rock Falls, part of the new 71st House District, will be represented by Mike Smiddy, a 39-year-old Hillsdale Democrat.
Demmer and Smiddy both will be freshmen. Smiddy, as an incoming member of the House Democratic majority led by Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, can expect to have somewhat more influence on legislation than Demmer, a member of the minority Republicans. Democrats will have a 71-47 margin, so they will control all legislation.
Despite Smiddy’s and Demmer’s political differences, we call on them to work together for the sake of the common interests of Sauk Valley communities.
One area of common ground is the state prison system. Smiddy works for the East Moline Correctional Center; Dixon has its own correctional center. Both facilities are important to their communities’ economic health. Smiddy and Demmer could work together to strengthen prisons.
The I-88 Corridor, which promotes economic development in Lee and Whiteside counties, passes through the new 90th and 71st districts. The corridor provides Demmer and Smiddy an opportunity to work together to boost the region’s economy.
Smiddy and Demmer also could work on common educational and transportation issues as members of the Downstate Caucus.
The state faces major problems such as pension reform, taxation, budget deficits, a heavy debt, and unemployment. As candidates, both men expressed the desire to take on those challenges, solve them, and encourage hope.
“We need to be able to believe in the American dream again,” Smiddy wrote before the election.
“I’m running for state representative because I believe in Illinois,” Demmer wrote.
Combine those positive beliefs in a collaborative partnership, and good things are more likely to happen for Sauk Valley residents.