• Ben Szalinski
    DEC 14, 2023


    Marron to resign Monday to lead economic development in his district

    Rep. Mike Marron (R-Fithian) will resign from the House on Monday. [House Republicans] 

    Rep. Mike Marron (R-Fithian) will still be involved in advocating for improvements and growth in his district, but in a new role after Monday, when he resigns from the House to take a job leading a local economic development organization in Vermilion County.

    Marron had previously announced he would not seek reelection in 2024 but decided to bow out early when he was offered a job as president and CEO of Vermilion Advantage — the county’s economic and workforce development organization. In an interview with The Daily Line, Marron said he expects it be a natural transition from the General Assembly.  

    “I think the great thing is being a state representative you’re in continuous dialogue with a lot of the business owners, the movers and shakers in your communities, so you’re pretty aware, you’re pretty on top of the challenges they face,” Marron said. “You’re always trying to work on those challenges by passing legislation that will help.”   

    Marron was involved in the organization in several different roles over the years including as Vermilion County Board chair and an executive committee member for Vermilion Advantage.   

    “This organization is a great organization that has done a lot for Vermilion County and the community of Danville and it’s something that my involvement in Vermilion Advantage is something that I’m very passionate about,” Marron said.   

    Some of his top priorities in his new role are issues that were important to him in Springfield, including workforce development and energy costs.   

    “I think that experience and already being aware of what the major challenges for our community are, that helps,” Marron said. “And having worked on those issues too in a different capacity, it’s certainly gives me a good perspective of where to start out.”   

    Danville has a population of just under 30,000 people, making it the largest city in the county located east of Champaign-Urbana along the Indiana state line. It’s a community that has struggled, however. About a quarter of the population is in poverty and the median household income is around $42,400, compared to the rest of the state, where 11 percent of people are in poverty and the median household income is about $78,400.   

    It also suffers from serious crime, according to FBI statistics from 2020. That makes it the sixth most dangerous city in America ranking behind Detroit; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Anchorage; Monroe, Louisiana; and Memphis.   

    “We live in area too that’s been economically challenged for a long time and it’s a wonderful community…But we have a tendency to beat up on ourselves a little bit,” Marron said. “That’s the other thing I really hope to address: we’ve got to change the perception of this community and move forward positively in that area—send a message that Danville and Vermilion County is a place that is open for business.”   

    Marron said he’s looking forward to being closer to home after serving in the House since 2018.  

    “This political climate is very, very frustrating,” Marron said. “Some of the things that are going on in the country as a whole, they’re a little alarming. There’s such a deep partisan divide and it’s certainly been a challenging time to be involved in politics. It’s not a healthy political environment right now, that’s for sure.”   

    Marron pointed to a handful of highlights from his time in the House that he is proud of, each involving his district. In his first year he worked with former Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) on coal ash clean-up legislation that was important for containing pollution at a local shuttered coal plant. He said he was also proud to vote in support of building a casino in Danville.  

    “It’s huge,” Marron said. “The money that’s coming into the city of Danville and Vermilion County governments, that’s huge. It’s a game changer that allows so many more resources to actually address some of the issues that are out here that we face.”   

    Marron was also a leader for House Republicans on an agreement between business and labor organizations to pay down the state’s remaining unemployment insurance trust fund debt compiled during the pandemic. He thinks that experience will be an asset in his economic development job.  

    “It’s a source of pride for me that I’m considered somebody that’s reasonable by both business and labor and you know, certainly that’s a dynamic that I’m going to face in my new job, too,” Marron said.   

    Marron’s successor will have to be able to balance that relationship between sometimes competing views in order to represent the district well, he said. Marron’s 104th House District figures to be a competitive pick-up opportunity for Democrats in 2024. Danville code enforcement inspector Brandun Schweizer, a Republican, is set to face Illinois Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 601 business manager Jarret Clem, a Democrat from St. Joseph. Gov. JB Pritzker narrowly won the district by one point in 2022 while President Joe Biden won by three points in 2020.     

    “It’s a very, very diverse constituency and I think if anybody’s going to be successful in this district, they have to do the best that they can to” to represent that diversity, Marron said.   

    The 104th House District surround Champaign-Urbana, picking up suburban-like towns in Champaign County before traveling north along Interstate 57 to Rantoul and east along Interstate 74 to Indiana where the district’s rural population lives.   

    Marron said his decision to not run for reelection was not impacted by his district’s swingy nature.   

    “I think that if we had more swing districts like my district, it would probably make for a better, more centrist kind of government,” Marron said.   

    That’s why House Republicans should focus on being a big tent party, Marron said. He acknowledged he has strong conservative views and said the House Republican Caucus has been going in the right direction over the last year but should also be welcoming of new ideas.   

    “If we’re going to come close to a majority in a blue state, you’ve got to be a big tent, you got to welcome people with…viewpoints that may be a little different than yours,” Marron said.   

    The Republican Party county chairs in Champaign and Vermilion counties will have 30 days from Dec. 18 to select a new representative to replace Marron for the second half of the 103rd General Assembly. The Champaign County Republican Party chair will have about 52 percent of the weighted vote while Vermilion County’s party chair will have about 48 percent.  

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