A Conversation with the Publisher: The value of contacts goes beyond helping careers

Nov 1, 2001

Ed Wojcicki
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

When Jim Edgar was governor, he had the opportunity to praise two people at one function. One was a mentor, Samuel K. Gove; the other was Al Grosboll, a member of his Cabinet. It was a snapshot of the way in which public servants nurture future leaders. 

The occasion was the 1995 ceremony of the Samuel K. Gove Legislative Internship Hall of Fame, when Grosboll and three others were inducted. Edgar was there to introduce Grosboll. Gove was there because of his leadership in the intern program, in which Edgar was one of his students. 

Edgar, a charter Hall of Famer in 1990, credits his internship for his start in state government. He also praises Gove, now emeritus director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, for his valuable guidance. 

The biennial Hall of Fame ceremony always reminds me of two lessons: the value of good relationships in politics and government, and the value of maintaining those contacts. 

Those who introduced new Hall of Famers at last month"s induction ceremony are good examples. 

Gov. George Ryan, a former Illinois state representative, introduced Richard Larison, who was House Minority Leader Lee Daniels" chief of staff in the 1980s and was working for Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas when Ryan asked him to join his executive staff in 1999. 

Veronica Lynch, the longtime director of research and appropriations for House Speaker Michael Madigan, herself a member of the Hall of Fame, introduced Terri Coombes, who worked for the House Democrats many years before becoming Secretary of State Jesse White"s deputy chief of staff. 

Another mentor for many, former Senate President Philip Rock, introduced former staffer James Jepsen. 

The common story at the Hall of Fame ceremony is that mentors and those who are mentored care about each other, professionally and personally. When they gather, they reminisce about shared experiences, shared lives. They laugh easily and swap stories freely. 

The two summers before graduating from college, I worked in Washington as an intern for my congressman, and then as press secretary for a congressional candidate in Missouri. I moved to Illinois, though, and lost contact with both men. Now I regret not keeping in touch with them and their staffs. I left my past too far behind. I know that"s one reason I so much enjoy standing aside and listening to the Illinois Hall of Fame stories. 

 

Illinois Issues, November 2001