ALTON - A man who says he took on criminals and corruption both as a cop and a mayor now is setting his sights on the U.S. Congress.
"I took on the machine in Belleville. I did what they said couldn't be done," said Rodger Cook, a Republican now living in St. Libory, during a recent stop at The Telegraph.
Cook is running for the Republican nomination for Illinois' 12th Congressional District, a post to be vacated after this term by longtime Democratic incumbent Jerry Costello of Belleville. At least five other people, members of both major parties, are showing an interest in the office.
Cook served a single term as Belleville mayor from 1993 to 1997. He said he refused to raise taxes and kept the budget balanced every year in office.
"We opened up the government to people. You couldn't even speak at meetings, which were only 15 minutes long. Mine were two-and-a-half hours long," he said.
"I spent years in public service because I believe each of us shares responsibility for our community. I wanted to help protect my neighbors - from crime, from corruption, from mismanagement. I think my experience will come in pretty handy in Washington," he said in a statement released as part of his campaign.
Among his platforms are cutting taxes, getting off foreign oil, cutting regulations for business, and doing away with the national health care law implemented by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama last year.
Foremost, though, is getting a handle on spending. He notes that the incumbent "has brought home a lot of pork ... but we're going to have to reduce the size of government."
Some of those decisions will run contrary to his own party, he said, but he believes, "You're there to represent the people, not the party."
From 1981 until 1993, when he ran for mayor, Cook was a Belleville police officer and detective and served for a time as a member of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis. He once was named Policeman of the Year and received several law enforcement commendations. He said he helped establish - with no tax money - the Belleville Teen Center, a drug-free center for students to gather.
He has spent the last 15 years as a consultant with small banks and businesses throughout Southern Illinois, advising them on compliance issues. He worked for a CPA compliance firm, Norman Bacus and Associates, until Sept. 30, when he quit to pursue his congressional bid.
"I know the jobs issue from every angle. I grew up in a single-parent home where we struggled to make ends meet. As a cop, I saw how a good job made a difference in keeping people out of trouble and families intact. As a businessman, I see how government heaps regulations on entrepreneurs and stymies job creation," he said.
He and his wife, Kathy, have five children and five grandchildren.
He served on the Greater St. Louis Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes board and was a founding member of the related Metro East Fellowship, chairman for the past two years.