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Barry Schrader
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I currently write a column Monthly for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each month and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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‘Cinderella’ senator comes back home

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................March 5, 2013

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear on the first Tuesday of each month.

A Shabbona farm girl named Christine Johnson has experienced a Cinderella-like story, going all the way to the Illinois State Senate and now back to her roots and old job as DeKalb County Treasurer. She was sworn in again as treasurer yesterday.
Her journey to Springfield happened quite by accident when the incumbent veteran Senator Brad Burzynski decided to retire mid-term, leaving the Republicans to name a replacement until the next election in two years. They chose Johnson due to her longtime experience as county treasurer (17 years) and good credentials as a respected and knowledgeable public official.
So she entered the Senate in February 2011 as part of two minority groups—being a Republican and a female. She is proud to point out she has the distinction of being the first Northern Illinois

Christine Johnson (R-Shabbona) shown during her two-year tenure as state senator with (former) Congressman Don Manzullo, at left, and Illinois State Rep. Bob Pritchard.
(Barry Schrader — news@daily-chronicle.com)


University graduate to represent the Senate district containing her alma mater.
So she entered the Senate in February 2011 as part of two minority groups—being a Republican and a female. She is proud to point out she has the distinction of being the first Northern Illinois University graduate to represent the Senate district containing her alma mater.
It could have been a lifetime political career except for one big obstacle—it was time for the 10-year redistricting and the Democrats were in control. So they gerrymandered her district to pit her against veteran GOP lawmaker Dave Syverson of Rockford. She was not even in the newly drawn district and would have had to move from Shabbona further north if elected. But as expected, Syverson waged a vigorous campaign, using his connections and financial backing to win the Primary, thus keeping his seat. He collected $129,000 for his campaign while Johnson raised $82,000.
But she has fond memories of her two years traveling back and forth to Springfield representing her constituents. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I am glad I did it,” she said. “It was awesome when I walked into the Capitol, walking up the same worn marble stairs used by many famous lawmakers over the years. It makes one realize how historic this place is.”
Johnson is not a political novice; at age 17 she volunteered on the gubernatorial campaign of Jim Thompson as she knew his two aunts in Sycamore at the time. She said she admired the way Thompson was able to work with both parties to get things done. After college she worked at Shabbona State Park and Lake in the office area.Her next move was to run for county treasurer; a post she held for 17 years and now returns to it, making her the longest serving treasurer in the county’s history.
Asked about memorable anecdotes in Springfield she said her first day walking up to the Capitol a man arrived at the door about the same time with his hands full of materials, dropping his keys. She retrieved them for him and it turned out to be House Speaker Mike Madigan. Then there was the time she went to a women legislators’ event at the Governor’s mansion and had her briefcase and purse stolen from her car parked a block away. Fortunately she recovered most of her belongings when they were found in a nearby dumpster—minus the cash.
New senators get to introduce a non-controversial “honeymoon bill” and she chose one that defined the practice of illegal wildlife baiting, mostly for turkeys and deer. After some good-natured ribbing from colleagues it was passed and sent to the House where it was also approved and signed into law by Governor Quinn.
Considering the fact that she was forced out of office by partisan redistricting I asked about her opinion of the process. She favors a computer-based redistricting method to avoid the political gerrymandering by the party in control. But she said a Fair Map Amendment will take 500,000 signatures just to get on the ballot. However, she is not in favor of term limits for legislators.
She mentioned she was thrilled to introduce a resolution lauding the NIU Huskies football team for again capturing the MAC championship, then paid her own way to see her alma mater play in the Orange Bowl January 1st.
Any political ambitions in the future? None that she has in mind at the present time, but she is considering writing a memoir. Another possibility for her could be a political science teaching position where she can share her firsthand practical political savvy with college students at Northern or even Kishwaukee College. But for now she just wants to return to the county treasurer’s office and be among friends she made there during her four terms in office.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115