Elaine Nekritz has always struck us as one of the lights in the darkness, a state legislator whose heart is in the right place, who got involved in politics not out of a sense of egotism but out of desire to make things better, who went to Springfield to get things done.
Yes, in the embarrassment that Illinois state government has sadly become, Nekritz always gave us hope.
It didn't hurt that she's also struck us as exceedingly bright, always articulate, at times courageous, usually both passionate and reasonable.
Let us pause here to digest one of many comments Nekritz made the other day to Daily Herald columnist Kerry Lester in a candid explanation of why the Northbrook Democrat decided to resign from the Illinois House:
"Going back to the overall impacts of the (budget) impasse, I can't tell you how hard it was to deal with," Nekritz said. "I can't tell you how many times I cried after talking to a constituent. I'd talk with someone who devoted their entire life to assisting victims of domestic violence and here we are, the system is crumbling. To not be able to help people in need is crushing."
Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republicans in general have warned repeatedly about the exodus from Illinois, the people and the companies that are fleeing the state. And it is a pertinent and worrisome point.
But little is being said about something equally worrisome: the number of dedicated legislators who are fleeing the General Assembly.
Nekritz, unfortunately, is only the latest in what recently has been a long line of them. A long line of them. Including Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno.
You see, as much as we seem to be singling Nekritz out, she is not the only legislator who wants to help solve the state's problems and those of the people who live here.
There are many lights in the Springfield darkness.
But the exasperation, the sense of frustration and, frankly, helplessness has become almost blinding.
And it is forcing many good legislators out. They want to be part of the solution but the toxic atmosphere and the broken system make solutions seem almost unattainable.
"It's been very hard on the rank and file," Nekritz said. "The sense at least I get in our caucus is people are exhausted. They're worn down by the chaos."
The budget impasse has been broken; it took a veto override and more hard feelings to accomplish that.
But now Rauner is at odds with Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton over school funding, a strident dispute that threatens to close schools, exacerbate divisions and exploit students.
Can confrontation be avoided? Can true leadership be displayed? Or will exasperation continue to rule?