ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Growing up, Larry Morrissey knew he'd need to leave his hometown of Rockford, for a bit. He attended the University of Notre Dame for undergraduate and the University of Illinois for law school. Morrissey says, "I moved back here in 1997, wanting to make a difference."
After law school, he worked for awhile in Chicago in law throughout the 1990's. But Morrissey always knew he'd be back. His first job back in the Forest City was at his dad's law firm, where his love for the community and for the people who live here, grew."
He says, "Being born and raised here, caring passionately about the community, I just didn't feel at the time we were headed for the right direction. And I was raised by parents who always taught me if you didn't like the way things were going, you better get involved and make a difference."
After an unsuccessful mayoral run in 2001, he tried again in 2005 and won, becoming Rockford's 40th Mayor. He held that office for three terms over the course of 12 years. His administration focused on road improvements, educational reforms, and lowering taxes. But it's his biggest challenge that could be his legacy.
"So a lot of what I tried to do was challenge the community, challenge myself to believe we can be a great city. I just saw a huge opportunity in our downtown, our water front. I grew up hearing stories about what used to be in the past, and I believed we could be even better moving forward. That led to a lot of the investments we're blessed to see today."
His administration helped create the Rockford City Market in 2010, which thrives today. In fact, this last outdoor season was a record-breaking one, with over 111,000 visits occurring through the season. But the biggest revitalization project in Morrissey's eyes, is the soon-to-be Amerock Embassy Suites and Convention Center, scheduled to open in the Spring of 2020.
"I knew that the Amerock wasn't a problem, nearly as much as it was a resource. An opportunity to attract investments. So that led to me going to China to raise funds for the project. We'll soon have a hotel opening that's a result of that vision, a lot of that hard work to bring those pieces together."
Today, Morrissey's focus is now in sales and government relations for Marathon Health. He chooses to enjoy Rockford's resurgence just as a citizen nowadays.
"To be very truthful, it was tough actually being in office for 12 years, we went through a lot of very heard times. It was a challenge on a personal level, certainly with a lot of sacrifices. Certainly with the job I have today, I can live pretty much anywhere in the country but I still love Rockford and I want to be here and our family wants to be here."