Republican officials have chosen a Kendall County sheriff's deputy, who'll be the first black Republican lawmaker in the state legislature in three decades, to replace resigning state Rep. Pam Roth of Morris.
John Anthony, 37, was appointed after GOP officials in the four counties making up the 75th District -- Kendall, Grundy, Will and LaSalle -- deliberated over nine potentials Monday. Their pick was announced Tuesday.
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"He's so energized. He believes in teamwork and I love that about him," said Susan Thornton, chairwoman of the LaSalle County Republican Central Committee. "He has got such a magnetic personality."
Anthony has been a sheriff's deputy since 2008 and worked as a police officer in Champaign. Also, he and his wife founded a nonprofit organization for children called the YARN Foundation.
His appointment comes as Republicans have vowed to better reach out to minorities in the wake of major Election Day losses.
Anthony, who also has roots in Puerto Rico, will be the first black GOP state lawmaker since the early 1980s -- something Thornton said was simply "icing on the cake."
"He transcends," she said.
Republican leaders said Anthony's work at the nonprofit -- including a focus on teen anti-bullying efforts -- set him apart.
"I got tired of seeing the same kids getting in the same troubles, the same problems," Anthony said.
Anthony, who grew up in a Chicago housing project and now has a Plainfield address, was set to be sworn in Monday. Aside from being elected a precinct committeeman last year, this is his first time in public office.
He said he's honored and looking forward to learning the ropes.
"I really want to be judged on the merits and not the skin color," Anthony said. "I've always felt welcomed into the Republican Party."
However, he may face distinct challenges.
The Illinois House Legislative Black Caucus has 20 members who are all Democratic representatives and mostly from the Chicago area.
Roth submitted her resignation last month, saying she wanted to move with her family to Texas because of her husband's job transfer. The Republican was appointed to the post in 2011 and elected last year.
The last black Republican state lawmaker was Jesse Jackson of Chicago, whose only term in the Illinois House ended in 1983, according to the General Assembly's Legislative Research Unit.
That lawmaker has no relation to the more well-known Chicago Democrats by the same name. He was elected at a time when Chicago Republicans weren't uncommon: There were more lawmakers in the General Assembly, and the state had a so-called "cumulative voting" system where voters in legislative districts had multiple votes. The approach was dropped in 1980, and efforts to do so were led by Gov. Pat Quinn, who was then an activist.