Don Schweihs steps down as Jo Daviess/Carroll County public defender

Don Schweihs
Don Schweihs

Online Staff Report

GALENA, Illinois — Forty years ago, Don Schweihs was working his way through college. His job as a brakeman on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad had long and varied hours. Attending college part-time was difficult. A job offer came along that was a pay cut, but it had regular hours. So, Schweihs became a mechanic working on the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office fleet of squad cars. Attending College of DuPage at night, Schweihs earned his associate’s degree while he was a mechanic. Having spent those years working around police officers all day, he decided to apply to become a police officer.

Oak Brook Police Department offered Schweihs a position and sent him to the Chicago Police Academy, where he graduated at the top of his class. He continued to attend college part-time and graduated from University of Illinois Chicago with a degree in criminal justice. Meantime, he earned several department commendations for valor from the Oak Brook Police Department for arrests he made of armed and dangerous criminals.

Law school had always been a dream for Schweihs. Not long after he married his wife, Mary Jane, he applied to and was accepted at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Upon graduating from law school, he accepted a position with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor. There, he tried misdemeanor and felony cases as well as appearing before the Illinois Supreme Court to argue a death penalty case. After several years with Cook County, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office offered Schweihs a position as an assistant attorney general. There, Schweihs was assigned to the Special Prosecutions Bureau, where he prosecuted white-collar crime.

In 1998, Schweihs accepted the position of assistant state’s attorney in Jo Daviess County and made Galena, Illinois, home for his family. Since the year 2000, Schweihs has been the public defender in both Jo Daviess and Carroll counties. He has also maintained a private practice.

But now, after a long and interesting career in state and local government, Schweihs has decided to dedicate his time to his family and his private practice. “I never intended 40 years ago to someday retire from government,” Schweihs said. “I just started doing things I thought were interesting and found myself here.”

Schweihs’ law office is in Galena. He can be reached at (815) 312-3112. His email is

Posted Nov. 26, 2014

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