By Samantha Nuechterlein
The Women in Politics Making a Difference Awards will recognize 16 outstanding women over the course of a year. Each season—spring, summer, fall and winter—the Women's Legislative Network will profile four women who are making their marks in their legislatures and communities. This is the first of four profiles of the honorees for spring.
Senator Sue Rezin, Illinois, Republican
Among Senator Rezin's many accomplishments is establishing the Grundy County summer high school project-based internship program, supporting the local community colleges to implement a curriculum that will directly flood the employment pipeline to the local chemical and energy corridor.
Who was your political hero growing up?
Ronald Reagan because of his communication style. He realized that not everyone agrees with him but he learned to embrace all people and bring them along with him and what he believed.
If and when you give advice to young women across the country graduating from high school, what would it be?
First of all, whatever you do in life you need to be a good communicator. Your writing skills are incredibly important and your speaking skills are very important as well. Work at it, it doesn’t come easy. I’m very shy so public speaking was very difficult to me, but I worked at it and now I’m much more comfortable with it. Secondly, do not create barriers in your mind. You need to embrace what you want to do and realize that a barrier is a learning experience. A potential failure or a door that is closed is an opportunity to learn from or to grow and be a much better person coming back stronger. Whatever you decide to do, you have to work very, very hard at it.
What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t in session?
My four kids are now in their 20s and my husband and I love being with them. It’s a very fun time in our lives. Also, if I have a few free hours I love to go for 20-mile bike rides—it’s a great way to clear my brain.
Tell us about one project that you are working on right now?
The Illinois Flood Resiliency Coalition, which I think is going to be the standard model in the country. We had a major flood in my district and we had about $150 million dollars worth of damage but one town had a resiliency plan in place and they had minimal damage. We now have over 25 certified Federal Emergency Management Agency flood managers, numerous communities have passed and enforced flood ordinances and joined forces with the local municipalities put flood mitigation plans in place. This coalition has received national attention for their implementation.
Samantha Nuechterlein is staff coordinator for the NCSL Foundation and Member Outreach.