PEORIA… State Representative David Leitch (R-Peoria) was honored by the Peoria Historical Society at the 5th Annual de Tonti Award Celebration on Thursday, September 8th at the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette. The de Tonti Award is bestowed upon those who demonstrate outstanding community leadership. Local as well as statewide dignitaries, including former Governor Jim Edgar spoke about David Leitch’s tenure in the Illinois legislature as well as his community leadership positions proceeding Rep. Leitch’s service in Springfield.
The restored Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette was a fitting tribute location for the dinner, as Rep. David Leitch was a strong player in both the 1979 renovation of the building as well as the most recent restoration. Owner Gary Matthews recounted how the most recent efforts began, “Representative David Leitch was critically important to not only the most recent, but the previous restoration of the Pere Marquette. The way we got started on this project this time, we were both signing letters for fundraising for the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria. While signing letters, I asked David if he knew much about the Pere Marquette. David responded by saying it was his very favorite building in Peoria. I told him that I am thinking about restoring it and asked if he would be interested in helping. Thankfully, David said, I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more.”
Former Governor Jim Edgar delivered the Keynote Address at the event on Thursday evening, recounting “Peoria had no better champion that Dave Leitch. David is the kind of person who didn’t come to you and ask for something unless it was really important. Many a time he would come in in a very nice manner and get things for Peoria. Some things I didn’t necessarily want to give, but he still got some of those things.”
In a video tribute played during the dinner, Keystone Steel & Wire President & CEO Bob Beecham also thanked David for his commitment to jobs in the region, “Dave always seems to know how to get things done. He’s a supporter of manufacturing. He understands what happens when a manufacturer is no longer in business. He’s helped us on many occasions over the last several years, especially in 2005 when Keystone was facing a lot of import pressure and we needed to refocus our business. David was very instrumental in getting us a loan through the State of Illinois. We have paid all that money back to the County to be used for local improvements. We are doing very well today. We appreciate all the things that David has done for us over time and we really hate to see him retire.”
Dr. John Erwin, former President of Illinois Central College, also thanked Rep. Leitch in a video tribute, for his dedication to Illinois Central College. “Without David Leitch’s leadership, we would not have ICC North. Additionally, in 2000, David secured over $17 million for Capital Improvements at the East Peoria Campus including ICC’s Agricultural and Industrial Technology Building, adding 75,000 square feet. We were also able to expand our Caterpillar Dealership Tech Program and also add our Diesel Powered Engineering Technology building and the Technology Center. As a capstone to the project, we were able to build the David R. Leitch Career Center at East Peoria’s campus. The Center helps tens of thousands seek better careers. All of these things together help ICC better serve the community and better serve students.”
Separate tributes were also presented by Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, former Senator Dale Risinger and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) as well as heartfelt remarks by former Governor Jim Edgar.
The event was emceed by Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. In total, the de Tonti Tribute Dinner raised over $100,000 for the Peoria Historical Society with over 400 attendees, which set a new record for this 5th annual event and award celebration. Rep. David Leitch has requested the funds be used for improvements and preservation projects to the Historical Society’s historic homes- the John C. Flanagan House Museum and the Pettengill-Morron House Museum.