Lake Forest politician stepping down
State Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, hosted a League of Women Voters gathering at her house Sunday. Garrett is not running for re-election. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Susan Garrett
HOMETOWN: Lake Forest
EDUCATION: Lake Forest College
VOCATION: State senator (retiring); owned Susan Garrett Marketing Associates
Words to live by: “If you’re a mom, an everyday citizen, that’s the kind of representation that can be very meaningful in Springfield.”
Updated: October 8, 2012 8:11AM
LAKE FOREST — According to her voting record, state Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, has voted in three Democratic primaries. She’s also voted in three Republican primaries.
A proud, self-proclaimed bipartisan, she isn’t a lifelong politician, either, having worked as the director of marketing for a Chicago-area bank for many years.
After leaving her marketing director role, Garrett became a marketing consultant, operating out of her home so she could be around to take care of her two children. It wasn’t until her kids were older that she was able to get involved in politics.
“I think it’s more difficult for women to get involved in politics because it does require a lot of time, and many women have families and young children, which present a great challenge,” Garrett said.
But when Dec. 31 rolls around, Garrett will have served a total of 14 years in the Illinois legislature. Though she’s stepping down at the end of this term, she’s learned that it’s not always easy to be a woman in a male-dominated world.
“I think you have to have confidence and self-assurance that the issues you bring to the table, though they may be different from what men bring, doesn’t mean those issues are insignificant. Every time you bring an issue to the table for discussion, if it’s important enough to bring it up, then it should never be diminished.
“I think women may worry that something that may seem important to them personally may not be acceptable to others,” she continued. “But I’ve learned over the years that sometimes you just have to rely on your gut instinct.”
And Garrett certainly has relied on her gut, using her voice to bring forth issues she finds important.
“I think that women bring a different perspective to the table,” she said. “We always advocate for quality of life issues that I believe have a direct impact on our families — such as education, food safety, clean water, health care coverage and proper care for our elderly.”
During her time as a state congresswoman, Garrett
focused on many issues that affect everyday life, such as working to ensure residents have access to clean and safe drinking water. But she said she’s probably best-known for her tough line on ethics reform.
“I’ve demanded oversight in transparency at every level of government,” she said. “I was also responsible for ensuring we have an inspector general to oversee how the agencies, such as the Illinois Tollway and METRA, are run. I’ve been dogged about good government, trying to ensure that taxpayers have honest representation.”
Now that’s she’s ready to leave public service, Garrett hopes that other women will pick up where she left off.
“I make a point of recruiting women and working with women,” she said. “I try to mentor women, give them the confidence and tell them that you don’t necessarily have to be an attorney to become a politician. If you’re a mom, an everyday citizen, that’s the kind of representation that can be very meaningful in Springfield.
“We need people who understand everyday issues,” she said. “Women understand balancing a pocketbook, raising a family, the shortcomings of education. Women bring a unique perspective to government.”