I maintain a small portfolio of private clients in need of executive communications, content strategy, and public relations. My work and client list is private as I retain no intellectual property rights.
Our daughter, Myra Ilene, is born.
I leave Illinois state government after nearly seven years of policy and executive communications work. That spring, I temporarily occupy a position with a skilled nursing government affairs firm and contribute to its legislative affairs and political apparatus.
Ultimately, I find professional solace after years of turmoil since Judy Baar Topinka’s sudden passing in 2014 as the corporate sponsorships manager at a not-for-profit that services Illinois’ legal community.
When Jack Campbell’s campaign for Sheriff earns him more votes than any other political candidate in Sangamon County despite his being a Republican in a “Blue Wave,” I start accepting work from private clients seeking executive communications, content strategy, and public relations support.
I assume a post as senior adviser to the Director of the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security. As such, I serve as a spokesperson for the Director, who wants the agency to review and revise all of its operating procedures. Realizing my background in content strategy and news media, the Director also puts me in a position as the agency’s de facto communications director. Along with the Public Information Officer, I author a number of public statements, speeches, presentations, and executive correspondence for the Director and his senior staff. Making more use out of those skills, the Director and Chief of Staff seek my counsel on a number of crisis communications and on occasion to act as the agency’s media spokesperson.
Director also supports my desire to reboot the agency’s workplace charitable giving campaign, which had been dormant for many years. A year later, the agency is recognized as having the top grossing campaign in all of Illinois’ state government.
Former Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell announces that September he is appointing me manager of his campaign for Sheriff.
My portfolio in the Comptroller’s Office has expands a great deal as senior staffers leave for posts in the private sector and the Governor’s administration. I am now preparing more internal and public facing communications, assisting with media affairs and public records requests, and serving as a senior policy adviser as a multi-year budgetary impasse between the Governor and Legislature chokes off funding for government programs.
I complete a Data Science certification prepared by faculty at Johns Hopkins University. I have also been a senior communications aide to a number of state and local political campaigns.
Comptroller Munger is subject by a newly-passed statute to run in a special election that fall. She narrowly loses as Hillary Clinton supporters in Chicago flock to the polls. The new administration relieves me of my duties two months later despite my having support from their own staff and supportive interest groups.
Our daughter, Robin Eulaine, is born.
My role in the Topinka administration has expanded over the years to include legislative affairs, some executive communications, media relations, and systems administration. I am a part of the Comptroller’s re-election campaign on nights and weekends. Happily, she wins a second term and sets benchmarks in the City of Chicago no Republican has matched since.
On Dec. 10, Judy Baar Topinka dies suddenly weeks before inauguration day. The loss is devastating, and raise a Constitutional question over whom appoints her replacement. When the dust settles and some of the senior staff accept roles in the incoming gubernatorial administration and private sector, I opt to stay at the Comptroller’s Office and support my colleagues in Leslie Munger’s administration.
Jenny and I are married.
I become the Illinois Statehouse Correspondent for Reuters before graduating from Southern Illinois University and move back to Springfield. Months later, my editor informs me the company will no longer consider freelance correspondents for full-time staff positions.
Newly-elected State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and her executive staff offer me a position overseeing her transparency and office modernization projects. I accept with honor.
Fixed atop the same spot in Giant City State Park we stopped at three years before to admire the scenery and take each other’s hand, Jenny says, “Of course,” when I ask her if she would marry me.
I move to Springfield to intern in the Statehouse Press Room with Rich Miller of Capitol Fax. The job puts me in situations impossible to imagine with an endless stream of power brokers and discussions on legislative and political actions that we will report days before any of our mainstream competitors catch on. To make matters even more interesting: it is a statewide general election year. A U.S. Senate seat, the Governor’s mansion and all executive offices, Congressional seats, the entire House of Representatives, and nearly half of the state Senate are up for grabs.
Though I never really leave Capitol Fax nor the Statehouse, I move back to Carbondale to resume my post as Communications Assistant at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. A local newspaper, the Carbondale Times, offers me a weekly political column, and I start my own hyper-local news blog that is regularly cited in mainstream media.
At 21, I briefly accept a post as southern Illinois campaign manager in a soon-to-be failed lieutenant governor candidate’s campaign. As the campaign’s fundraising stalls, I start working simultaneously as Communications Assistant at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and as Assistant News Director at WIDB Radio.
Both of those roles are short lived. In December, former journalist and gubernatorial adviser Mike Lawrence recommends me to Rich Miller for an internship with his Capitol Fax publication.
Southern Illinois University in Carbondale becomes my new home that fall. Breaking with tradition not to hire freshmen, the Daily Egyptian student newspaper invites me to their training week for the coming semester.
Two milestones happen before the semester begins: I am assigned to the Daily Egyptian‘s city government beat and I meet Jenny Hatch.
Charlie Wheeler, the legendary Chicago Sun-Times reporter and long-time director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois, stays after his presentation at my youth government day seminar in Springfield to answer every question I have about working in the Statehouse Press Room. Before the conversation is over, I am determined to take my career there. My college search and plans are based entirely on his advice.
I am a 16-year-old high school sophomore, and my first byline runs on the front page of my hometown newspaper.
A week later, my first article is printed in my high school’s newspaper. It is a news story about a fatal shooting inside the Illinois State Capitol. I interview the local state representative about his relationship with the deceased officer and what improvements were made to prevent a repeat incident.
I am now hooked on hard news and make it my beat. The faculty adviser makes me editor within the year.