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Q&A: Sally Turner Replaces Bill Brady As 44th District State Senator

Sally Turner is sworn into office by Logan County Clerk Sally Turner.
Logan County Clerk
State Sen. Sally Turner (pictured right) is sworn into office Monday by Logan County Clerk Theresa Moore. Turner served as clerk for the county for 24 years.

Bill Brady's former Illinois Senate seat now belongs to a former Logan County clerk.

After a decision process stretching through most of January, five Republican Party county chairs chose Sally Turner of Beason to represent the 44th District for the next two years. The decision was unanimous.

WGLT and WCBU spoke with Turner about her experience throughout the appointment process. 

How are you feeling at this point?

All the phone calls and texts and messages and the emails, that's overwhelming. I guess I really didn't think about that part. Another thing I am very appreciative of is the outreach by the fellow senators has been phenomenal. It made me feel so welcome, and I really appreciated that too.

You went through a whole application process to get to this point. What was that like for you?

It was a whirlwind. I learned of the application process and contemplated it, of course, with my husband and a couple of trusted friends. And I decided, you know, I still have a lot to give back to my community. And from that point, everything just flowed, I knew that this was what my calling was. Then when I met with those five chairpersons, I know this might sound odd, but it was fun. I haven't had that much of an engaging discussion with others in regard to government and politics in a long time. So shortly after that, I got a call about an hour and a half or two hours later, and they selected me unanimously, and I was just humbled.

What's been your way of preparing for your new role?

I already have a little bit of the preparation in that I have local government embedded in me over the last 24 years. Local government touches everyone in some fashion, whether it's your park, your school, your fire, your library, your township, road district, all of that touches everyone. I've been involved in that since I started with the county clerk's office and even continue on doing that now, Also, the preparation that I've had in the Property Tax Extension Limitation law, that PTEL, that knowledge base that I think I give them is very helpful. And also, my experience in cybersecurity for elections, and just for government in general, has been very helpful. My preparation is just getting down to the nuts and bolts. You know, we haven't met, I haven't met in person in the Senate, and I'm really looking forward to that, just to the process. 

When you're in session, what will be your first orders of business?

Right now, it's COVID. This vaccine rollout is high priority on my list. That is a big thing on the forefront is, let's get into trying to see how to properly sign up people that maybe have been turned away because there's no available time slots, and some of these older folks in our community don't understand how, you know. They don't have a computer. How do I get a time slot? If I call, maybe somebody doesn't answer, things of that nature. So I think it's really, really important to get that out. And, of course, the economic fallout that we've experienced. I work at a food pantry, a local food pantry. And when I pull up to go to work, I can't even park. There's no room to park because the line is already lined up. I think that tells us something as well. So I think that's an immediate, immediate concern.

How do you plan to represent the people of your district in the Senate? 

I think I'll represent the people in my district by listening and having conversations. That's something I always did as an individual and also at the office of the County Clerk.

We were the answer office, we were the place where people would call to ask questions about anything in government, and we would direct them where they need to go. So I think that's important that someone is there to say "OK, well, I know where to go for that" and try and listen to concerns, problems, issues, and be able to either do something about it or send them to the correct place. 

Anything else you're looking to focus on policy-wise?

I look forward to what committees I'll be placed on, and when I find out what those are, I think then I'll hone in on some of the focuses of those committees and some of the issues that are in those areas and go from there. So that's my first start. I realize I have big shoes to fill. You know, the former Senator Brady, he'd been in office for a long time and his commitment to the people of our district should be acknowledged and committed, and I appreciate his service to the people of Illinois and our our district.

What are you hoping to accomplish in office with these two years left in what was Bill Brady's term?

Reaching across the aisle and getting things done, listening to people's concerns, having a commitment to others. I think that's what everyone needs to do. What is it we can do together?

After this term, do you plan to run for a full term?

Oh, sure. Again, I don't have any reason not to. I'm looking forward to it. I don't know what the map will look like, but we'll wait and see.

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Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.