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Conversation with the Publisher: Stratton kept serving Illinois; civic engagement project successful

Ed Wojcicki
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Once or twice a year I got together with former Gov. William Stratton, who had been on the Illinois Issues Board since 1978. He liked to joke that government spaces ordinarily bear the names of dead people, but he already had three named for him: a government office building in Springfield, a state park near his hometown of Morris and a lock and dam on the Fox River.

A two-term Republican governor in the 1950s, he talked with pride about the bipartisan successes he enjoyed with the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Stratton never lost his passion for government or his ability to spin a tale. When he died March 2 at the age of 87, many called him one of the best governors Illinois has had. He orchestrated the first reapportionment in more than a half-century - before the U.S. Supreme Court required one-person, one-vote. He was the first to name a woman and a black to his Cabinet.

The son of an Illinois secretary of state, Stratton was elected to Congress in 1940 at age 26. He later served two terms as state treasurer, and then paved the way for Illinois' tollway system and McCormick Place.

Stratton was a public servant who became an outstanding community servant after leaving the Governor's Mansion. Our condolences to his wife Shirley. And thanks for his years of support for our efforts.

In other board notes: Mike Bakalis resigned from the board and from his position as chairman when he decided to make a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002. Because Illinois Issues covers state government, we avoid conflicts of interest by not having incumbent statewide officials or statewide candidates on the board. The departure of Bakalis means Diana Nelson, a former Republican state representative, becomes acting chair of the board.

Former Illinois Comptroller Dawn dark Netsch now has a building named for her: the comptroller's training and technical center in Springfield, dedicated last month. She was the first woman elected to statewide executive office.

Our civic engagement conference March 6 attracted 300 people. The benchmark research report, "Profile of Illinois: An Engaged State," attracted statewide attention. Visit civic.uis.edu for the report and to see how we are striving to keep Illinoisans better connected in the new Illinois Electronic Neighborhood.

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