As a lifelong resident of the 36th district, Gregg Johnson remembers growing up in the close-knit Rock Island community where people looked out for one another. It wasn’t uncommon for many neighbors to work at the same place.
As a teenager, Gregg had decided that college wasn’t the right choice for him and instead planned to work at the Farmall Plant where his father worked after graduating high school. When that time came, the job that Gregg had always expected to have was no longer an option, as manufacturing jobs – and with them, thousands of people – left the area.
Gregg recalls how discouraging it was to see the exodus of people leaving the area, the effects of which can still be felt today with the lowest reported population since the 1930s Census. He remembers his father explaining that he believed the area’s economic depression was the result of a government who had forgotten about working people.
In 1983, Gregg was hired as a correctional officer at the East Moline Correctional Center, where he worked for 31 years until his retirement in 2014. Because the manufacturing jobs left the area, people left the region to go to college, opted for military service, or went to work at the prison if they chose to stay local.
Today, as the father of a seven-year-old daughter, Gregg envisions an Illinois where children can grow up and have opportunities locally to succeed in whatever path they choose. He wants a community where teens can receive a higher education locally, or receive career training if college isn’t right for them. But most importantly, Gregg wants everyone to have access to a good paying job so they can raise their families and build a life in the community instead of being forced to leave.
As state senator, Gregg will lead by example as a legislator who will fight for the opportunities of working people and rebuild the same prosperous, unified community from his childhood.
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