Half of state lawmakers got their start in suburbs

  • State Rep. Peter Breen puts up campaign signs outside Capone's restaurant in Lombard last year. He was mayor before moving on to the legislature.

      State Rep. Peter Breen puts up campaign signs outside Capone's restaurant in Lombard last year. He was mayor before moving on to the legislature. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Peter Breen is sworn in as Lombard mayor, a job he held before being elected to the legislature.

    Peter Breen is sworn in as Lombard mayor, a job he held before being elected to the legislature.

  • Anna Moeller of Elgin, silhouetted in the foreground, joins in Elgin's bike-to-work week in 2012, when she was an Elgin councilwoman.

      Anna Moeller of Elgin, silhouetted in the foreground, joins in Elgin's bike-to-work week in 2012, when she was an Elgin councilwoman. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Lt. Gov Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton takes the oath of office in January. She previously was on the Wheaton City Council.

    Lt. Gov Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton takes the oath of office in January. She previously was on the Wheaton City Council. Associated Press

  • Circuit Court Judge John G. Dolton swears in Anna Moeller as a member of the state legislature last year.

      Circuit Court Judge John G. Dolton swears in Anna Moeller as a member of the state legislature last year. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted4/2/2015 5:30 AM

Here's one more thing to consider when you go to the polls on Tuesday: The local officials selected next week in the suburbs could someday move up to a seat at the Illinois Capitol 200 miles away.

A Daily Herald review of 50 suburban lawmakers shows that more than half held local government positions before moving on to Springfield.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They say the local experience was essential, and many get legislation ideas from what happens back home.

"I don't know how folks come down here without having served first on a local government because you learn a lot of lessons," said state Rep. Peter Breen, a Republican freshman and former mayor from Lombard. Those local ties no doubt will color legislative debates this spring on issues from Gov. Bruce Rauner's plan to freeze property taxes to proposals to cut into towns' and counties' shares of income taxes.

Voters on Tuesday will pick mayors, local trustees or council members, and representatives on other boards like parks and libraries.

Here's how some who previously held those offices climbed to elected positions at the state Capitol.

State Rep. Peter Breen

As a local official, Breen traveled to Springfield to lobby lawmakers over a proposal by then-Gov. Pat Quinn to reduce or freeze towns' shares of income taxes.

Now, Breen is on the other side of that situation as Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fellow Republican, is proposing far deeper cuts to the local share after income tax rates dropped Jan. 1.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Now I have to weigh the interests of the people of the state of Illinois and weigh the interests of my district," Breen said. "You certainly don't want to lose that source of funding, but having the income tax go down was a great benefit to the people of my district."

Breen ran for Illinois House in 2009, but backed out before the campaign got too far along. He says that's how voters knew him when a Lombard trustee seat came open, which he won.

After a stint as trustee and mayor, he ran for Illinois House again last year and won.

The local experience "puts you in a position to then show the people of your area whether you're able to properly govern. You learn how to act when you're in the minority. You learn how to cobble together a governing coalition. It helped me to understand better what folks in my area were concerned about."

State Rep. Anna Moeller

Moeller, an Elgin Democrat, served on the Elgin City Council after a successful 2011 campaign before taking state office in 2014.

Prior to serving as a council member, Moeller also worked for the City of Skokie and was executive director of the McHenry County Council of Governments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Working in local government "is a good place to learn and understand how to be accessible and accountable to your constituents," Moeller said. "And it teaches you how to make difficult decisions on a daily basis."

Moeller worked her way into local government after interning for a congressman and deciding she wanted more contact with the average person.

​"In D.C., you get a sense you are working in a vast system in the federal government," Moeller said.

Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti

Sanguinetti was a member of the Wheaton City Council when Rauner picked her to be his running mate for the 2014 campaign.

She was first elected to the council on the same slate of candidates as Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives in 2011.

Now, she's been named by Rauner to head a project that some local officials might dread. She leads a committee to consolidate local governments, and while the group doesn't have any legal power to do so, its suggestions could carry weight.

"I often times, as I travel the state, tell everyone to close their eyes and imagine what it would be like if the state of Illinois could be Triple-A bond rated," Sanguinetti told the Daily Herald early in her term. "Well, we did it in DuPage County. We did it in Wheaton, and I hope to bring that to the state of Illinois."

Sanguinetti is the second straight lieutenant governor to be plucked from a local government post. Democrat Sheila Simon was a local official in Carbondale before former Gov. Pat Quinn put her on his ticket.

State Rep. Grant Wehrli

Wehrli, a businessman and former corporate pilot, was on the Naperville City Council before taking his seat in the General Assembly in January.

The Republican said the state faces more challenges than Naperville, which was part of the appeal of running for higher office.

"Naperville is a very well-run unit of government," he said on the Illinois House floor. "This is where the problems are. I want to be a collaborative problem-solver to turn our state around. This is the epicenter."

Wehrli said his local government experience helps him know how Rauner's plans will hit back home. If the governor wants to reduce the local share of income taxes, for example, local officials will best handle it if they're not surprised.

"If that is going to happen, they need time to be able to adapt to that new environment," he said.

State Rep. Marty Moylan

Before state Rep. Marty Moylan became a Des Plaines alderman, he was fighting to keep pornography off local library computers.

"You could be there with your children, and the person next to you could watch pornography," Moylan said.

He says he won that battle and stayed plugged in to local issues.

Moylan eventually became mayor, an office that propelled him to a seat in the Illinois House.

The Democrat says his experience shows why Rauner will have to work hard to convince lawmakers that taking away local income taxes is a good idea.

"He's going to cost cities in my district a huge increase in their tax bills to make up the money," Moylan said.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.