Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Illinois Channel Board Member, Katy Lawrence Remembers Judy Baar Topinka

Illinois Channel Board Member
December 10, 2014

Today belongs to Judy Baar Topinka. To her family, her friends, her devoted staff both current and former, and the fortunate taxpayers of this state who had a true advocate - my deepest sympathies for this devastating and shocking loss.

I first met Judy in 1989 as a nineteen year old kid in the Illinois State Senate. I was a Page, and while this position is not one that is considered prestigious, it is a necessary part of keeping the legislative process moving. Can you imagine if every Senator on the floor went off and grabbed their own lunch? Nothing would get done! Just about every morning, she would put her light on (which would indicate she needed something) and I would go over to her desk on the Senate floor and ask what she needed.

 "Kid, I need a cup of coffee - and I don't want one of those little Dixie cup size coffee cups, I want the biggest one they have down in the cafeteria - and I want it full-leaded, no froo froo stuff in it".

 I bring this story up because Judy treated me with the same amount of respect as she did her Senate colleagues (sadly, this was not the case with everyone). Her kindness was welcomed and appreciated given there were not a lot of women lawmakers back then. I looked up to her then, and still do to this day.

 Being on the Senate floor everyday during session affords one the amazing experience of seeing the process at work. Legislation that impacts the citizens of Illinois being debated right before your eyes. It didn't take long to notice that Judy was a respected and trusted ally to the Republican caucus - and had the same respect from those on the other side of the isle. She was truly remarkable that way. Her devotion, work ethic and genuine desire to do what was best for ALL Illinoisans is what sets her apart. She was a trailblazer.

 Her unwavering and tireless efforts on behalf of our citizens is something to be envied by other elected officials. Her public service is legendary. Her ability to work with everyone - also legendary. Her sense of humor, kindness and depth of understanding of people from all different walks of life made it literally impossible not to love her. In fact, I do not believe I have ever heard a negative word about her.

I could go on and on regarding her achievements, but I would rather focus on Judy as a person. I have close friends who work for her, and know first hand on what an incredible woman she is (I can't write "was" yet). You will not find a more devoted staff - and there is a reason for it. Judy not only treated anyone who worked for her well, she treated them like family. She knew when their birthdays were, she knew the names of their pets, she remembered important milestones in their lives and when she lost her bid for Governor, and was no longer Treasurer, her only concern was her staff who would be out of jobs because of her loss. I remember having a conversation with her and that was the only thing she talked about. Not the negative campaign unfairly waged against her, not the fact that she lost (many would have a bitter or bruised ego), but her "family". She is an example for all employers on how you should treat your staff. Her entire staff - both present and past - would run through a brick wall for her without questioning why. . . . find me an employer that every single person who worked for you would do that.

To say I will miss her would be an understatement. I love her, and will never forget her. I am grateful to have known her all of these years. Today belongs to Judy Baar Topinka.

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