Michael Frerichs (pronounced FREH-ricks) was born and raised in the small, downstate farming community of Gifford, Illinois (population 1,000 on an optimistic day). The son of a Teamster truck driver and a university secretary and AFSCME member, Mike was a first-generation college graduate when he earned a degree from Yale University. After graduation he spent two years in Taiwan where he taught English to young students and learned to speak Chinese fluently.
Mike returned home to help run a technology start-up. He also served as a volunteer firefighter in his rural community.
In 2000 Mike was elected to the Champaign County Board – the first Democrat ever to represent his rural district in northwest Champaign County. His election created a Democratic majority on the Board for the first time in Champaign County history. After the retirement of the incumbent, Mike was first appointed and then elected Champaign County Auditor. He earned accreditation as a Certified Public Finance Officer.
In 2006 Mike was elected Illinois State Senator for the 52nd District in the most expensive legislative race in that cycle. Mike was the first Democrat elected to the State Senate from eastcentral Illinois since the Roosevelt landslide of 1936. As chairman of the Higher Education Committee, he championed efforts to make college more affordable. He also served as chairman of the Agriculture and Conservation and the Enterprise Zone Extensions Committees.
Mike was first elected Illinois State Treasurer on November 4, 2014. Mike ran uncontested in the Democratic primary and faced Republican Illinois State Representative and former Illinois State House Minority Leader Tom Cross in the General Election. For more than two weeks after election day the election was too close to call. Eventually Mike was declared the winner, defeating Cross 48.1% to 47.8% in one of the closest in Illinois state history, being decided by only 9,225 votes out of more than 3.5 million ballots cast.
Mike sought reelection as State Treasurer in the 2018 election. He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and faced Orland Park Village Trustee Jim Dodge, the Republican candidate, and financial analyst Mike Leheney, the Libertarian candidate, in the November 6, 2018 general election. Frerichs won comfortably with over 57.6% of the vote.
As State Treasurer Michael Frerichs has been a leader. Among his accomplishments:
• Investing and managing roughly $50 billion in assets for taxpayers, local governments, and families saving for college and retirement.
• Earned the highest AAA rating for the Illinois Funds local government investment pool.
• Modernized Illinois’ unclaimed property law and systems: Returned over $1.2 billion to rightful owners. o More than tripled the number of claims paid each year from roughly 52,000 to over 173,000. o Simplified the claims process using modern technology.
• Partnered with the General Assembly to change the law (over a veto by former Governor Rauner) to require life insurance companies to notify beneficiaries of unclaimed life insurance benefits after their loved one passes away. • Reformed Illinois’ college savings program to slash fees and improve investment options for families savings for college. The Illinois Bright Start program has now earned Morningstar’s highest “Gold Medal” rating for five years in a row after inheriting the program with only a “Bronze Medal”.
• Partnered with the General Assembly to launch the Illinois Achieving a Better Life Experience Program (ABLE), that allows people with disabilities and their families to save and build financial wellness without risking federal benefits.
• Been a leader in promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
- Increased the qualified Minority, Women, Veteran, and Disabled-owned (MWVD) financial firms and to firms with a record of equity, diversity, and inclusion. When Mike became State Treasurer only 1% of trades were made with diverse brokerdealers. Today it is over 80%. Likewise, assets managed by diverse firms rose from $16 million in 2015 to $3.9 billion in 2020.
- Increased the number of diverse executives and administrators in the State Treasurer’s office from two to eleven. o Mike has been a leader in encouraging corporate boards to increase their diversity. He leads the Midwest Investors Diversity Initiative (MIDI), a group of 11 pension and union funds with a collective $750 billion in assets pushing companies to appoint more women and people of color to their boards.
- In 2020 Mike launched a national coalition of institutional investors overseeing more than $3 trillion in assets pushing for companies in the Russell 3000 Index to voluntarily reveal the racial and ethnic composition of their boards.
• Launched Illinois Secure Choice to provide a way for workers in Illinois without access to a retirement plan at work to begin saving through an account that travels with them from job to job. More than 95,000 workers have already saved over $78 million of their own money.
Mike resides in Champaign with his young daughter, Ella.