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Legislator looks back over 18 years in Illinois House

Mitchell recalls the good times and sad times

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Dear 90th District residents:

My, how time has flown. I am ending my 18th year as your state representative. It seems like yesterday that I watched the election returns at Moonlight Bay Marina. But now, it is farewell time.

The list of friends has grown mountainous over the time that I have served this district. I cannot possibly mention everyone, but I want to say thank you to my wife and family for allowing me to spend the time it has taken to serve in this capacity. The position did take considerable time away from my family, and that was one of the most difficult parts for Jan, Emily and me. Time is something that a person can never get back.

The counties of Bureau, Lee, Ogle and Whiteside will always be remembered with heartfelt fondness. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you.

I don’t believe I have a bad memory in all the time I served the counties in first the 73rd and now the 90th districts. We have gone through some good times together and some sad times together. We’ve watched businesses close and new ones open. I want to mention a few of the most memorable events of the past two decades.

None of us will quickly forget the Saturday that I received a call from then-Gov. George Ryan. He asked me whether I was sitting down. I said no, and he said that I should. He then informed me that he had just gotten the word that Northwestern Steel and Wire was closing its doors for good.

I was shocked and upset by the news, knowing how many families this would affect.

With the hard work of our local economic development team, the city of Sterling and others, we survived and now have Sterling Steel, smaller but more secure, as a part of the Rock River Valley.

I remember driving home from Springfield towing Rep. Raymond Poe’s little train, borrowed for the Fiesta Parade, when the word came over the radio of the planes hitting the twin towers in New York. I can remember vividly the description and confusion of the news media as they struggled to make sense of the terrible disaster. It was several minutes before it was tied to a terrorist attack on our nation.

I don’t believe I have ever been so shaken by an event in my lifetime. I couldn’t make sense out of the brutally that was inflicted on our citizens in the blink of an eye.

In the days that followed, a debate ensued over whether to have the parade or cancel it. The decision was finally made to have it and call it a Freedom Parade. The various politicians decided that it would not be appropriate for us to march in the parade that year. It was the only one I missed in the time I served the area.

At the conclusion of the parade, I spoke at the Grandon Civic Center. It was the most difficult speaking engagement of my entire career. We will always remember the innocent victims of 9/11.

On the brighter side,  I truly enjoyed helping the various cities, counties and townships with grant projects to improve areas such as structural replacement at Montmorency Elementary School after a devastating storm; an elevator grant for Dixon High School to make more of the school handicapped accessible; the new senior/community center in Oregon; parking on Reagan Way in Dixon; the PADS shelter in Sterling; grants to various fire districts to help with building structures and equipment; and many other projects around the district.

Memorable legislation includes Lydia’s law to help rein in vicious dogs, Erin’s law to bring sex abuse awareness education to pre-kindergarten through high school; the establishment of the P-20 Council to deal with most difficult problems facing public education; serving on the re-enrolling dropouts committee; and passing legislation for charter school expansion.

Serving as the chairman of the statewide committee to commemorate the centennial celebration of native son and president, Ronald Reagan, was one the many highlights of my time in office. I worked with many wonderful people to help plan and carry out festivities in many parts of the Reagan Trail from Dixon and Tampico all the way down to Eureka College. Many communities held festivities to honor the president, and it was an honor to serve on the statewide committee.

I tried to make sure that my office and those who worked there did the very best they could to help the citizens of the district. We dealt with numerous problems along the way and still had to maintain fiscal responsibility. We maintained the office at 100 E. 5th St. in Rock Fall for the entire 18 years of service. I was blessed with great people to help with the day-to-day operation of the office. My thanks to all of you.

I am very proud to have been your state representative for the past 18 years. I am extremely grateful that you elected me nine times to continue to serve. All any public official can do is to try his or her hardest to always do the right thing in the eyes of the constituents.

We didn’t always see eye to eye on every issue, but I have always respected your input, advice and sometimes criticism. I believe that we all tried our very best to improve the life of the Sauk Valley region, and I will never forget the time I was given to be in a position of trust.

Thank you, and God bless you, one and all.

Note to readers – The last full day of state Rep. Jerry Mitchell’s final term will be Jan. 8. New lawmakers will be sworn in Jan. 9.

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