Newly minted State Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield) will continue serving as Springfield alderwoman for the next two weeks as the city council prepares to vote on a city budget later this month.
Turner, who was appointed and sworn in to represent the state’s 48th Senate district on Saturday, sent her letter of resignation from the Springfield City Council late Tuesday. She said she was waiting for guidance from a senate attorney to confirm she can hold both posts at once.
The Illinois Constitution prohibits members of the General Assembly from getting paid as a public officer or employee, such as city council member or firefighter, while they are “in attendance as a member of the General Assembly.”
Turner said she asked to be removed from Springfield city payroll beginning Feb. 6, the day she was sworn in to the Senate. The salary for a city council member is around $15,500.
Turner’s final meeting will be Feb. 23, when the council is expected to vote on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The fiscal year runs March 1, 2021 through Feb. 28, 2022. Turner said the budget vote is why she’s waiting to step down.
“There are some significant issues that I want to ensure that are addressed in the budget,” Turner told NPR Illinois.
Turner declined to give specifics because she says the changes have yet to be introduced in ordinance form. She said they concern personnel issues, and the city’s police and fire departments.
Mayor Jim Langfelder said in a statement Thursday he would appoint a replacement to be confirmed by the city council on March 2. Citing that Turner’s resignation is within 28 months of the next city election, Langfelder said the replacement would serve the remainder of the term.
Langfelder is now accepting applications, including resumes and letters of interest, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to city hall. Candidates must be residents of Ward 3 and have lived there for at least a year prior to March 1, 2021, and can’t be city employees. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. on Feb. 23.
“Even though she is leaving her seat at the City Council, we look forward to continuing our work together on issues important to Springfield,” Langfelder said in a statement Monday.
Democratic county chairs from Christian, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Montgomery and Sangamon counties picked Turner of eight candidates to finish out the last two years of former State Sen. Andy Manar’s term. He left the seat in January to join Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration as an advisor.
Turner also left her post as chair of the Sangamon County Democratic Party. Dan Kovats will serve temporarily in that position, he said in a statement this week. Kovats had been vice chair, and served as proxy for Turner during the process to choose Manar’s replacement.
The other candidates vying for the job included Lisa Badger, Springfield Park Board member; Shad Edwards, retired Illinois State Police; Frank McNeil, former Springfield alderman; Roberta Vojas, Macoupin County Board member; Ruth Waller, Macon County State’s Attorney’s office; Chase Wilhelm, previous candidate for state representative; and, Julie Moore Wolfe, mayor of Decatur.
Turner said she will run for election in two years for the seat that encompasses parts of Springfield, Decatur and stretches south to Metro-East St. Louis.
Turner was elected to her third, four-year term on the Springfield City Council in 2019. Her ward – Ward 3 – includes much of the east side of the city. Even before her recent appointment to the Illinois Senate, it would have been her last due to term limits.
“I had kind of dubbed it my legacy term because I really wanted to ensure something that would live on long after I'm gone,” she said.
NPR Illinois spoked with Turner about her time on the council and plans for her time in the senate. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time on city council?
There's been some monumental things that I've been able to accomplish. Some of them may seem very small in comparison to others. But I look at things like ensuring that residents who live within the Far East TIF are able to access that funding for some needs that they have, and not just look at it in terms of businesses being able to access.
I look at the work that I have been able to do around budgeting, and putting some ordinances into play that make that process more transparent. And then I look at the work that I was able to do to specify that proceeds from video gaming would go into a dedicated fund for infrastructure,(and) the work that I was able to do around the implementation of recreational cannabis. Then, more recently, the work that I was able to do around police reform and also equity.
You and Ald. Gregory worked on police reforms that were passed last fall, but promised further changes, particularly to the Police Community Review Commission. What’s the future for those changes?
Alderman Gregory is very dedicated to seeing that through, and I'm sure that it will not die, it will continue. And also keep in mind that even though I am transitioning to the state legislature, the 48th district includes the city of Springfield. So I still want to be as active as possible with my constituents in the city of Springfield.
What background or experience do you hope the next Ward 3 council member has?
I would hope that it would be someone that has a history of community involvement, community service. That background, more or less ensures your success as a (city council member).
What are your priorities for the term?
I have had multiple conversations with Sen. Andy Manar, who I think was an awesome senator. I am always in awe of his dynamic constituent service. So I do want to have an expanded conversation with him around some of the things that he has already in the hopper and make sure that we bring those to fruition. And then it's going to be an opportunity for me to have extended conversations with individuals throughout the district to learn what they're interested in, their concerns, and their priorities. And then we'll go from there. I don't want to come into this thinking that I know everything and I know what should happen. I want to hear from the people, other people who live in the (48th district) and I want this to be a collaboration.
Do you plan to run for a full term in 2022?
Most definitely. When I made my application for appointment, I was not looking at this as a two-year appointment. I was looking at it as an opportunity for continued service. So I am very excited and honored that I have been given this opportunity, and I am going to hit the ground running and make sure that the 48th has the representation that they deserve.