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Local Column

Olson: Pritchard did good job as rep in tough times

Former Illinois State Representative Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley talks with a reporter in the newsroom at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle Friday. Pritchard resigned his position with the state to accept an appointment to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees.
Former Illinois State Representative Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley talks with a reporter in the newsroom at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle Friday. Pritchard resigned his position with the state to accept an appointment to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

Bob Pritchard did a good job representing this area in the state Legislature during a difficult time.

Pritchard announced this week he is resigning as a legislator after almost 15 years representing Illinois’ 70th House District, which now includes most of DeKalb, along with Sycamore, Genoa, Sandwich, his hometown of Hinckley and other communities. Pritchard left his post as chairman of the DeKalb County Board to join the Legislature in December 2003 after the death of his predecessor, David Wirsing.

I didn’t agree with Pritchard on every issue, just as I assume he didn’t love every story and editorial the newspaper has written in the six years I’ve been here. During my time in the community, however, I’ve come to respect his approach to the job.

Pritchard was accessible to constituents and involved in the communities he represented.

If there was a chamber of commerce dinner in his district, odds are Pritchard would be at a table somewhere. Fundraiser for the Voluntary Action Center? There’s Bob. Spreading woodchips at a park on a Rotary Club volunteer workday? Bob turned up.

I’ve even won a couple of pies baked by his wife, Mary, at golf outing raffles. They were delicious.

He has been accessible to families, too. My own children interacted with his office through summer reading programs and the Girl Scout Day at the Capitol.

In conversation, Pritchard spoke knowledgeably about issues in state government, and seemed to enjoy talking about them. He would take calls from reporters during the legislative session, and would make calls if something important had happened and he wanted to help the local news put it in perspective.

Pritchard didn’t only want to inform reporters, however. He regularly sent out his “Pritchard’s Perspective” newsletter offering anyone who cared to subscribe his take on what was happening in Springfield.

It has been a challenging decade for Illinois state government. The state has careened from one crisis to the next, with the Legislature often called into special sessions. During the latest one, in July 2017, Pritchard joined several Republicans in overriding the governor’s veto of a state budget that included a 32 percent state income tax increase.

Not everyone agreed with that decision, but he was clear on why he thought it had to be done – he saw no other viable options and thought the state budget crisis could not continue.

With Pritchard set to join the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees, we’ll soon have a new representative in Springfield. In the fall election, Republican Jeff Keicher, Democrat Paul Stoddard and Libertarian John Mathey will face off.

The winner will face the same challenge Pritchard did – making DeKalb County’s voice heard by often dysfunctional state government.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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