Continuing his brother’s legacy

By Gus Bode

Former farmer, coal-miner and small business owner Jerry Deering is hoping to bring the family name back to Springfield

Editor’s Note:This is the third in a three-part election series on the three candidates for Representative of the 115th District.

Hoping to carry his brother’s legacy back to Springfield, Democrat Jerry Deering pledged his commitment to protect the working families of Southern Illinois, saying he will fight for the revitalization of the coal industry and anything that will bring more jobs to the area.

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Deering of Du Bois is the brother of Terry Deering, the former state representative who died of a single-car accident near his home in 1997. Terry was elected to the House in 1990 in an unexpected victory over incumbent Republican Wayne Goforth.

It may be a little more difficult for Jerry Deering to take the seat than it was for his brother 12 years ago. He’s running against Mike Bost, who enjoys local popularity and has held a tight grip on the 115th district since 1995. Green Party candidate Richard Whitney is also challenging for the position.

Though it may be difficult, Deering would like to carry the family name back to Springfield, so until Nov. 5 he’ll keep knocking on doors and “meetin’ and greetin” the people of this district with a platform similar to his brother’s, which includes a special emphasis on the coal industry and creating local jobs.

“There’s maybe a glow left in the embers of what he accomplished and if I could just do half as good as he did, I’d be happy,” Deering said.

Following his brother’s death, the 90th General Assembly passed a joint House resolution about their colleague:”People who knew Terry Deering knew that he was a Southern Illinoisan through and through; it was no surprise when he joined many other young men in the 1970s and went to work in the coal mines; as a result, he learned early in life about the importance of coal to the economy of Southern Illinois.”

A 1991 Illinois issues article described Terry Deering as ” a coal miner secretly nourishing the hope of becoming a politician.”

Like his brother, Deering is also a product of the Southern Illinois coal mines, where he worked for 25 years before his company shut down Nov. 12, 1998, and he lost his job to what many described as a disappearing industry.

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“Being a laid off coal miner, I’ll be advocating for clean coal technology and the rebirth and the revitalization for a lasting Southern Illinois coal-filled future,” he said.

He didn’t have a specific plan for bringing back the coal industry but said, “We have to start somewhere.” He said much of the clean coal technology needed to burn clean coal is in place and the next step will be to open some of the closed mines. He also cited spearheading the development of tourism and agriculture as a way to bring additional jobs to the area.

Deering is running a newly drawn district that includes parts or all of Union, Perry, Jackson, Clinton and Washington Counties. Deering’s brother, Terry, served his first term for the 115th District, but after the 1990 redistricting, he served his final terms in the 116th District. Bost and Terry Deering served together in the past, but this year’s new legislative map pits Bost and Jerry Deering against one another.

Besides wanting to continue what his brother did in Springfield, Deering is interested in politics because it is “part of the family tree.”

Both of his brothers, Terry and Richard, and their father have served as mayor of the village of Du Bois and Jerry served on the village board for 16 years. Since 1998, he has been one of 15 board members on the Washington County Board, which serves roughly 16,000 people.

Deering and his wife Cheryl have two daughters, Bridget, an SIUC graduate, and Yvette, who is expected to graduate from SIUC in December.

Deering said he understands the plight of the working people in Southern Illinois because of his diverse job history.

He has had a string of jobs since graduation from computer programming school in St. Louis. He worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft for one and a half years and then returned home and began working in construction and construction management. Later, he worked for 25 years in the coal mine before losing his job and going back into construction. He currently works for the Operating Engineers Local 520 out of Granite City.

He has also been a grain farmer and currently leases his acres to an area farmer in addition to owning a small auctioning business.

While he realizes it will be a hard battle to win the Nov. 5 election, Deering said it was one he was prepared for from the beginning. He said he is continuing to campaign hard although he missed a WSIU-TV debate between the candidates because of the flu and volunteers at the Jackson County Democratic headquarters say he’s extremely hard to reach. To have more campaigning time, Deering took off work this month without pay, “dedicated to the people of the 115th District – how’s that sound?”

Win or lose, Deering said he’ll be glad when the whole thing is done, so he can take a break from campaigning, get back on the payroll and make his daughter’s final tuition payment.

“It’s a large district. It runs from the Kaskaskia River to the Mississippi River. It’s a large area to cover for a one-man show, but I knew that going in it was going to be tough.

“I want to serve the people,” he said. “My brother was a people’s person and I want to continue his legacy,” he said.

Reporter Molly Parker can be reached at [email protected]

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