By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – In 36 years of public service, John Baricevic always put the needs of working people and their families first, his union friends and supporters say.
That dedication earned him honors from the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council at its February meeting.
Baricevic, a St. Clair County circuit judge since 2004 and the county board chairman before that, was narrowly defeated in his bid for re-election in the November election and has returned to private practice in Belleville.
“The one thing we’ve never done in the Building Trades is forget our friends – the ones who have kept us going in our business every day, the ones who were on the ground fighting to help us get where we’re at today,” said Dale Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer of the Council.
“So many of the great things we’ve had over the years, especially in St. Clair County, were driven by one guy – Judge John Baricevic. John has always been our friend.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to him about situations,” Stewart added. “He’s never refused to sit down and talk to me and give me guidance for when I come back to the membership. You guys may think I had all the answers, but I really didn’t. John was able to give me those answers about how to approach a lot of things.”
Baricevic came on the scene in 1978 when he joined the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office as an assistant. In 1980, he ran for the office against tough competition and was elected. He served through 1990, when he became the County Board chairman and served in that capacity until 2004, when he was elected 12th Circuit Judge.
LABORERS’ RON SHEVLIN REMEMBERS
A special guest at the meeting was Ron Shevlin, retired business manager of the Southwestern Illinois Laborers District Council and business manager of Laborers Local 100. Shevlin said he’s known Baricevic for 45 years.
“John is a modest individual, but he is also a multi-talented individual,” Shevlin said. “So many of us here owe him so much, but we don’t really all know John Baricevic.”
Shevlin described how in the ’70s,Baricevic was at St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, KA, which had no football team. So Baricevic started a football program from scratch and coached for four years.
Shevlin credited Baricevic with guiding creation of the first substantial Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in Illinois, for construction of the joint-use airport at Scott Air Force Base, while he was county board chairman.
Baricevic didn’t make it easy for the PLA supporters, Shevlin recalled.
“Not only is he principled and honest, he can be kind of hard headed,” Shevlin said. “He doesn’t generally take things at face value. He led us through a series of hoops – he wanted it done right, and he made us work to get that agreement. And it was a good thing that he did.
“There’s no way to say how much was accomplished for Labor by John Baricevic signing that original Project Labor Agreement. That was something that has saved us time after time after time.”
TIME TO WIN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Shevlin added that even now, Labor needs to maintain its strength in local elections.
“If the Democratic Party doesn’t control local politics, we’re going to lose Project Labor Agreements,” he said.
“We have lost one of the best friends that Labor ever had, but I’ll bet you anything that if tomorrow, Dale, you need help doing something in the legal realm and you go to John Baricevic, it’ll get done. I guarantee it will.”
Stewart and Council President Charles “Totsie” Bailey presented Baricevic with a gift of appreciation – a rotating desk chair done up in leather, with two complementary office chairs.
“It may not be a lot, but it means a lot to us,” Stewart said.
THE HONOREE GIVES BACK
Several of Baricevic’s family members attended the meeting, including his son C.J. Baricevic, last year’s Congressional candidate.
John Baricevic thanked the Council members for the support he has had from Labor over the years, including helping him get through college and starting in public service.
“I always had your support. I always had door knockers. But most important is the community,” he said. “We all do what we do because your members have families and they need jobs.
“Quite frankly, the decisions I made to help Labor were because they were the right things to do, and your union members elected good guys to represent them.
“Every step I took was with you,” he added. “We could say good things about each other all day and have a good time doing it over a beer. It was with great pleasure that I walked with you guys through the entire process.”
Baricevic said he can be found any time in his private practice work.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I won’t have the same ability to help on projects as I did in the past, but if you’re looking for a lawyer, you know I can still help.”