A new nonprofit organization looking to improve the heart of Peoria now has a leader.
Michael Freilinger is the Downtown Development Corporation's first president. Freilinger most recently served as Tazewell County administrator, a post he took in April 2012. The DDC says he will start his new job immediately.
"I am grateful for this opportunity and am excited to join the newly formed DDC. A lot of hard work has been done to get us to this point. We now have the resources to turn that vision into a reality by fostering a vibrant and thriving community in Downtown Peoria and the warehouse district," Freilinger said.
Freilinger was the source of heated controversy during his time as County Manager in Osceola County, Florida. He was fired in April 2010 amid accusations of mismanagement. The straw that broke the camel's back was an issue with the County Jail, which, under Freilinger's leadership, saw two prisoner escapes and another attempted escape. However, Osceola County officials told local media at the time that Freilinger was essentially a scapegoat in a larger political battle between elected officials.
During his time in Tazewell County, Freilinger developed the first County strategic plan, negotiated a $25 million expansion agreement with Monsanto, and helped redevelop the Pekin landfill. He announced his resignation back in April, with May 31 being his final day. Freilinger had planned on becoming the City Manager for Independence, Iowa.
The DDC was formed last year to champion, guide, and sustain growth in Peoria's downtown and warehouse district. Its Board of Directors is comprised of both business and city leaders, although it operates as a stand-alone entity.