Both of Jason Pohren's careers have revolved around the pursuit of justice.
After five years as an officer with the Hamilton Police Department, he decided to go to law school with the hope of becoming a state's attorney some day. His focus shifted away from criminal law, but after eight years of practicing civil law, he returned to the area to care for his father, who had been diagnosed with dementia. About the same time, he stepped into the open Hancock County state's attorney position.
Pohren prides himself on having helped revive Hancock County's Teen Court program.
"We've probably sent over 100 kids through there in the two years since we started it back up, and maybe three or four out of those 100 have failed." he said. "To me, if you're going to change someone's direction, that's the time you do it."
Fees amassed through the Teen Court program have led to thousands of dollars in scholarships distributed to Hancock County high schools.
Pohren also had a hand in organizing bimonthly meetings among local police chiefs, fostering deeper collaboration with neighboring departments.
"All the chiefs in the county, including state police, get together to discuss who they need to really pay attention to," Pohren said. "They used to have a yearly get-together before that, but it wasn't really to share intelligence. Now we're able to get ahead of it, a little bit."
Age: 38 (Turning 39 in September)
Family: One son, Juris, 9
Education: Bachelor's degree from Western Illinois University and juris doctorate from Southern Illinois University School of Law
How are you involved in your community? I volunteer my time coaching baseball, football and wrestling in Hamilton. I served on the Opioid Task Force and the ESDA Board and also served until recently on the Hancock County Teen Court Board. I am vice chairman of the Hancock County Central Republican Committee.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it? I am the state's attorney for the citizens of Hancock County. I represent the county in all civil legal matters and the people of the state of Illinois as the chief prosecutor and law enforcement official in all criminal matters within Hancock County. I enjoy having the opportunity to bring criminals to justice while being a voice for victims.
What is a typical workweek like? There is simply no easy way to answer this question, as there is not a typical workweek. Most of my time is spent in the courtroom participating in trials, motion hearings or sentencing hearings. However, a lot of my time is spent drafting search warrants, completing legal research, drafting legal briefs, negotiating the resolution of both civil and criminal cases, attending meetings for the various county board committees and taking phone calls. I am also responsible for the supervision of employees with the state's attorney's office.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it? I had my first job at the age of 10, delivering newspapers. I remember the people along my paper route and the extreme weather.
How do you balance everything? I don't believe that life is about balance. Everyone has a busy life. I believe that life is about priorities, and you balance those by the level of importance.
Which person has influenced you the most and why? I don't believe that any one person influenced me. I would say my parents were the most important figures in my life. They stressed the importance of a drive in whatever you did and the need to set goals and achieve them. I also had several high school teachers, college professors, law school professors and one sister who set my bar pretty high. Finally, I believe that becoming a father forced me to try to set a good example for my son.
Have you ever failed at something? (Care to give details? How did you recover?) I fail every day at something. In my opinion, failure is necessary for learning and eventual success. Recovery from failure is easy; just don't dwell on it and move on knowing that 90 percent of life is showing up and giving it your all, win or lose.
What does success mean to you? There is no golden definition of success to me. I would never measure my success by my professional accomplishments. I try my hardest to be the best person I can be, but, at the end of the day, being a "good person" is success to me.
What was your proudest professional moment? I don't believe that I have one single moment that would define my career. There are several cases that I have won at trial that stick out, my selection to clerk for the Illinois Supreme Court and graduating from law school magna cum laude are all accomplishments that I'm very proud of.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion? In my off time, I enjoy watching my son participate in sports and being part of the programs he is involved in. I also enjoy hunting, woodworking and time spent with family and friends.
What is the biggest need in your community? I think it would be wonderful to have one consolidated school for the entire county if feasible. I also believe that having a countywide community center for various events would be great. Finally, I think that bringing more jobs to the county is a much-needed addition for the residents.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community? People. Hancock County is filled with some wonderful people with all sorts of backgrounds that are truly great people.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be? I sure wish I would have listened to my parents more back then, but I'm happy with the decisions I made at those times, as they have shaped who I am today. If I could give kids in high school some advice, it would be give like 1,000 percent every day, as you only get one life, so make it count for something and try to be better today than you were yesterday.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? I would not change what activities I do if I got a few more hours, but I'd be able to get more things done.
Do you live by any mantra or saying? You can't run with the big dogs if you never get off the porch.