In the 98th General Assembly, Frerichs served as the chairman of the Higher Education committee and had previously served as chairman of the Agriculture & Conservation and Enterprise Zone Extensions committees.
Frerichs was born and raised in the small farming town of Gifford. Upon graduating from Rantoul Township High School, Frerichs attended Yale University and received his BA in 1995. He then attended National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan where he studied Mandarin Chinese while teaching English courses. Upon returning home, Frerichs began to teach at his alma mater and became involved in the community, including, serving on his local volunteer fire department, on the board of a local non-profit nursing home, and as a member of the Urbana Rotary Club.
In 1998, Frerichs ran against then-State Representative Tim Johnson and though he lost, it was the closest margin in Johnson’s political career. In 2000 Frerichs was elected to the Champaign County Board and reelected in 2002.
Later that year, Frerichs was appointed to succeed Gerrie Parr as the Champaign County Auditor by his fellow board members. As Auditor he was responsible for preparing budget reports, maintaining financial records, ensuring the county meet state and federal reporting requirements, preventing fraud and improving the financial health of the county. At the time, he was the only auditor in the state to become a Certified Public Finance Officer, a credential he continues to maintain. Two years later, he was elected to the position.
In 2005, Frerichs announced he would run for the 52nd Legislative District seat that includes most of Champaign County and Vermilion County to fill the vacancy caused by Rick Winkel’s retirement. In what became the most expensive state senate race of 2006, Senator Frerichs was elected over former Senator Judith Myers by a margin of approximately five hundred votes. as the first Democratic State Senator to represent East Central Illinois since 1936.
Frerichs served as Chairman of the Illinois State Senate's Committee on Higher Education and was a past-chair of the Agriculture & Conservation and Enterprise Zone Extensions. He also sat on the committees for Financial Institutions, Licensed Activities and Pensions, Public Pensions & State Investments and the Agriculture & Conservation.
During his time in the Senate, Frerichs led efforts to eliminate the corrupt legislative scholarship program, advocated for the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, and funded improvements at the University of Illinois, Parkland College and Danville Community College while fighting to reduce Illinois' disparities in education funding. After Governor Rod Blagojevich was removed from office for corruption, Frerichs moved to have the former governor barred from ever holding office again in Illinois. This motion, like the vote to remove him, carried unanimously.
Frerichs announced his intention to run for the vacated office of Treasurer of Illinois in early January 2014, after incumbent Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford had announced his intention to run for Governor of Illinois. Frerichs ran uncontested in the Democratic Party primary and faced Illinois State Representative and former Illinois State House Minority Leader Tom Cross in the General Election on November 4.
For more than two weeks after election day, the election was too close to call, but eventually Frerichs was declared the winner, defeating Cross 48.1% to 47.8%, as the election ended up being one of the closest in Illinois state history, being decided by only 9,225 votes out of more than 3.5 million ballots cast.
He was inaugurated on January 12, 2015 and is serving as the 74th Treasurer of Illinois. After less than a year in office, Frerichs was elected by his peers across the country to be on the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers' Executive Committee. Frerichs also serves as Vice Chairman of National Association of State Treasurer’s Legislative Committee as well as Trustee on the Illinois State Board of Investment.
Frerichs’ initiatives have centered on encouraging savings plans for college and trade school, increasing financial education among all ages, removing barriers to a secure retirement, and protecting residents from predatory companies. Under Frerichs stewardship the Bright Directions college savings program earned Mornigstar’s Silver Medal two years in a row – the highest rating given to advisor-sold plans – while reducing fees. In 2015 and 2016 Treasurer Frerichs visited more than a dozen campuses across Illinois to talk with students and school administrators regarding the frustration and fear associated with the lack of funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) due to the State’s budget impasse. Consumer protection has played an important role in Frerichs administration, securing $2.3 million in uncashed rebate checks from Sprint and $140,000 from RadioShack and reconnecting the funds with Illinois residents via I-Cash, the State’s unclaimed property program. Frerichs also succeeded in leading the call to pass legislation supported unanimously by Democrat and Republican legislators requiring life insurance companies to use the federal Death Master File list to confirm if a policy holder has died and the death benefits have not been paid.
Frerichs married Laura Appenzeller in 2003. They had one daughter in 2008, and divorced in 2013.