ROCK FALLS – When state Rep. Jerry Mitchell was asked what lies ahead after 18 years in the Legislature, his tone grew ever more excited.
“Nothing,” said the Sterling Republican, who retired as state representative of the 90th District.
Mitchell’s career accomplishments include 30 years as an educator before the General Assembly.
“I enjoyed what I did, I enjoyed the people I worked for,” the 70-year-old said. “I did my best. Now I’m going to enjoy not having to do something every minute, or be somewhere all the time.”
More specifically, Mitchell is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Jan, three children and three grandchildren, something he missed out on as a school superintendent in Dixon and as a legislator.
He also plans to spend time on his horse farm in Schuyler County, south of Springfield.
Mitchell said he will look back proudly on his work with the downstate caucus to bring more education and road construction money to communities outside of Chicago, as well as naming U.S. Route 30 after Abraham Lincoln and pushing for highway construction between Sterling and Dixon.
Mitchell put a focus on representing his district and bringing back what he could in projects. That is the advice he gave freshman state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who was sworn in last week to take Mitchell’s seat. Demmer was endorsed by Mitchell.
“I told him to keep an ear to the ground locally,” Mitchell said. “You have to represent your district first, and the whole state second.”
State Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Galesburg, said the General Assembly will miss Mitchell’s expertise on education.
“He was a class act, and he was in politics for the all the right reasons,” Moffitt said. “He did care for the kids. That’s one thing you knew about Jerry Mitchell.”
Moffitt recalls an evening when he called Mitchell to his hotel room for a ride to the hospital.
“It was late and I was sick, and we were staying at the same hotel,” Moffitt said. “He was that kind of guy. He cared about people.”
Mitchell, who has moved out of his Rock Falls office on Fifth Street, said the building is available for rent.
Demmer said Mitchell and his staff have been a big help in getting him acclimated to his new position.
Many of Mitchell’s former colleagues have come up to Demmer to tell him about the kind of person the retired legislator is.
“He was respected on both sides of the aisle as a good guy,” Demmer said. “He wasn’t the type to take a cheap shot to win political points. That earned him high praise.”
Now, Mitchell said he will ride into the sunset. Literally.
“I’m really looking forward to being out on the farm and just being with family,” he said. “I really don’t have any plans. Just wake up and do what I want.”