PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Monday, March 13 construction begins on the Bob Michel Bridge, but first, let’s look at the man for which it was named.

The Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin dives into Michel’s life and legacy as a Central Illinois representative.

Michel was the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the House of Representatives from 1956 to 1995.

The House eulogized him as an “extraordinary American,” a “great patriot” and a “man of the House” when the former congressman passed away in 2017.

According to Tiffany White, executive director of the Dirksen Center, Michel had a distinct legacy of civility, bipartisanship and public service that still endures today.

“At the local level, he was just well known for making sure that infrastructure was taken care of in the district, that had a significant influence on agriculture and those are things that he continues to be remembered for,” White said.

She said Michel took good care of the constituents of the 18th congressional district, which covers parts of Peoria, Bloomington and Springfield.

This is why Central Illinoisans have always had a strong affection for the congressman.

“The lessons he taught those around him permeate all walks of life,” White said it was his ability to see other people as human beings first and as people of different experiences and backgrounds second.

White calls it a privilege to be Michel’s voice and said he is somebody she looks up to and admires every day in her own work.

“And to give voice to that message and to give people the opportunity to explore that legacy and that period of United States history for those purposes is such a gift,” she said.