Sunday, October 07, 2007
A Reunion Of Old Friends
I returned to my old home town of Springfield, Illinois to attend a reunion of former members of the Illinois House Republican Staff, where I spent my first six years after graduating from Eastern Illinois University. I have to say I've never met friends as good as those with whom I had the pleasure of working on the House Republican Staff, and it was a real pleasure seeing some of these wonderful folks again.
These are some photos I took at the staff reunion. Assistant House Clerk Brad Bolin, a Pendleton native and former staffer, gave some of us a tour of the newly-renovated Senate and House chambers. The $10 million dollar renovation has been well worth the investment in what I believe is one of the most beautiful State House buildings in the country. I would note the legislature is still in session more than five months after their scheduled adjournment because lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement with Gov. Rod Blagoyevich on the state's budget. For the record, both chambers and every single statewide office is controlled by the Democrats. Is that leadership or what? My first session working on the staff we worked well into the month of July, including the 4th of July, when lawmakers fought over how to divvy up money from a new pork barrel spending plan called Build Illinois, which staffer Sherwin Swartz aptly dubbed "Bilk Illinois."
That's Swartz, a retired long-time serving staffer who was our resident expert on elections, in the top photo standing next to me at the podium from which House Speaker Michael Madigan has ruled for decades, save a two-year period my former boss, Lee A. Daniels, held the post. Sherwin kept us entertained with his colorful descriptions of Illinois pols and life on staff, which we commonly referred to as "Sherwinisms."
Former staffers inducted Ed Keen, a long-time education analyst, into the staff's Hall of Fame at the reunion. Keen succumbed to cancer a few years ago. He was a mentor to many of us on staff. He came out of retirement as a school administrator to work on our staff as a late-in-life second career. It was observed how nobody ever recalled Keen raising his temper or getting angry with his work, which at times could be quite challenging. Keen was a proud World War II veteran who once shared with me his experience as a prisoner of war in a German POW camp. After hearing of the hell he lived through for more than a year, I could only imagine that everything else in life from that point on for him was a walk in the park. I understand he wrote down his experiences as a POW. If I can snag his writings, I will share them with you. Regretfully, he didn't get the opportunity to visit the WWII War Memorial erected in Washington, D.C. belatedly for some of our nation's bravest veterans.