Robert de La Salle, with a fleet of canoes and 33 men, is believed to be one of the first European explorers to visit the Pekin area. In 1680 his crew constructed a winter refuge in what is now the southeast quarter of section one in Pekin Township. Although travelers and Native Americans frequented the area, it was not until the summer of 1824 that Jonathon Tharp built a small log cabin on the high east bank of the Illinois River and encouraged his father, friends and other family members to follow him. The local Native American residents, the Pottawatomi Indians and their chief Shawubena were friendly toward these settlers.
With a population of 1,500 the city incorporated and received its city charter in 1849.
The city government operates under the managerial form of municipal government, with a seven-person city council consisting of a mayor and six council members, all elected at-large to four-year terms. The city council appoints a professional city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city, composed of over 300 full- and part-time employees and an approximate budget of $62 million.
CITY SERVICES AND PROJECTS
The City of Pekin provides a number of services aimed at improving the quality of life of residents, businesses and visitors. They include:
- Public safety services through full-time police and fire departments that protect life and property.
- Building inspections and code enforcement to maintain the health and safety of our community.
- Weekly curbside solid waste, recycling and yard waste collection.
- Road maintenance and repair.
- Snow removal on designated snow routes.
- Economic development and tourism efforts to attract new investment in the community.
- Public transportation services offered through CityLink.
- Availability of a municipal airport for leisure or business.
- Bus transportation for area school children in collaboration with school districts.
- Wastewater collection and treatment.
Founded in 1860, the Pekin Fire Department is staffed by 52 full-time firefighters. Responding from three stations located across the city, the department is an all hazards response organization that includes fire suppression, fire prevention, emergency medical services and technical rescue, as well as hazardous materials response and code enforcement.
The Pekin Fire Department provides community education including fire extinguisher and CPR classes, fire investigation and youth fire setter intervention. The Pekin Fire Department helps keep citizens safe by conducting annual fire inspection activities of local businesses and manufacturing facilities, as well as providing hazardous materials response at the technician level, high angle rescue, confined space rescue and trench rescue.
Due to the proximity to the Illinois River and numerous area lakes and ponds, the fire department also provides surface water rescue. The Pekin Fire Department retains an ISO rating of 3, and covers the City of Pekin as well as the Powerton and Brush Hill Fire Protection Districts. All three districts come together for a response area of approximately 45 square miles. Pekin Fire Department provides advanced emergency medical response, with 51 of the 52 personnel holding the State of Illinois EMT intermediate or paramedic level licenses.
Pekin citizens feel safe knowing they are protected by a progressive police department composed of 54 officers and a K9 officer named Bas. The police department has several divisions including patrol, investigations, a narcotics unit and the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team (SWAT team). The department also fosters community relations with outreach programs like Cops for Kids, Night Out Against Crime and Shop with a Hero (for Christmas shopping).
Additionally, officers volunteer their time year-round to raise money for Special Olympics. The Pekin Police Department
places a strong focus on crime prevention and educating citizens with tips to protect themselves against crime. The city’s low crime rate is a direct reflection of the department’s commitment to the safety of Pekin.
Pekin has served as the county seat for Tazewell County (population 133,526) since 1849. As the hub of county government, Pekin hosts the state’s attorneys’ offices, the sheriff’s office and the Tazewell County Justice Center. Many other county offices are in downtown Pekin, including the regional superintendent of schools, county clerk & recorder, county treasurer and county coroner.
The Illinois Secretary of State Driver’s License Facility and the Illinois Department of Human Services are two of the state agencies with offices in Pekin. Our state legislators also have local offices in Pekin.