DIXON – One of Ronald Reagan's former aides recounted stories of being an armchair witness to history in the making to a crowd of area Republicans on Friday.
Brent Johnson, president and CEO of Cherry Valley-based Ringland-Johnson Construction, the construction management firm tasked with building a new Lee County Jail, worked as a staff assistant to The Gipper 3 decades ago.
He described Dixon's favorite son as two different people, a strong diplomat and a charming gentleman, a combination that made for an outstanding leader and role model to those around him.
"I watched him disarm people time and time again," he said during the annual "An Evening to Remember Ronald Reagan" dinner hosted by the Lee County Republican Central Committee at the Dixon Elks Lodge.
From the Geneva Summit to chopping wood at his home, Reagan connected with people and instilled pride in America, Johnson said.
"He's a person I will always cherish," he said.
The event drew a variety of politicians and candidates, including appearances by Gov. Bruce Rauner, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, State Sen. Tim Bivins, and State Reps. Tom Demmer, Dan Swanson, and Brian Stewart.
The night also featured brief speeches by people looking to land state offices, like attorney general candidate Erika Harold and lieutenant governor candidate Rich Morthland, as well as 16th District Congressional candidate Jim Marter.
Along with accolades for the 40th president, the crowd also recognized Bivins and Lee County Treasurer John Fritts, both retiring from office.
Proceeds from the event's dessert auction went toward the restoration of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home.