Sen. Garrett looks ahead to new life phase
State Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest is looking ahead to her next challenge after 14 years in public office. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2013 11:53AM
Her office in Highwood has been empty for weeks, yet State Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) has not exactly thrown in the towel.
The 29th District state senator, who hails from Lake Forest, has given up her role as a state legislator, but has set her sights on the future.
“I intend to stay very active and engaged. I’m not going away,” Garrett, 62, said during an interview last week.
Senator for 10 years and state representative for four years before that, Garrett hopes to establish an advocacy center dedicated to governance, an area she feel she knows well.
“As a legislator, you receive bill proposals all the time,” Garrett said. Sometimes an issue requires a quick turnaround and legislators are left wondering how other states have handled a similar situation or what other options might be available.
Garrett would like to provide that information to legislators in a timely way.
“It would allow everyone to make better decisions,” she said.
The Lake Forester also hopes to work in fund-raising for not-for-profits and, perhaps, serve on a board or two.
Garrett said she is excited about the future and her decision more than 18 months ago to not seek reelection.
“It feels good, really good,” she said. “I have no regrets.”
There are some things she will miss, like having the ability to make a difference, “where I can make a phone call and actually change something for the better, that’s something I’ll never have the opportunity to do again,” she said.
She’ll also miss the input from constituents.
“People who take the time to call, to e-mail or sometimes even write letters the old-fashioned way, it really makes a difference,” she said. “Many times that has led me to change my vote.”
Over the years she has held public office, Garrett has seen a transformation.
“When I first started, people were more interested in how I could help them with road repairs or getting extra funding for a bridge, or something like that,” she said.
Over the last few years, that has changed.
“People are very concerned about what we were doing (in Springfield) and they wanted to make sure I was informed of how they feel. They call much more, e-mail much more with their opinions and their ideas, ‘vote yes’ or ‘vote no’, ‘don’t raise my taxes’, ‘don’t pass a pension bill and here’s why’,” Garrett said. “They’re much more detailed and comprehensive as to the rationale for why they’re calling. They’re very thoughtful.”
One thing Garrett won’t miss is the commute: Driving back to Lake Forest from Springfield at midnight or flying on a propeller plane in bad weather.
And she won’t miss a change in atmosphere she has noticed over the last few years of “not really being able to deliver the results that citizens and taxpayers of the state would like us to deliver,” she said.
She thinks people are disappointed with the General Assembly.
“I just felt like I was grasping and couldn’t quite make it happen,” she said. “In a way, that probably affected my reason for wanting to move on and try to affect change in a positive way from a different perspective and on a different level.”
Despite that change, Garrett still encourages people to seek political office.
“It seems that it’s a tough job, but what job isn’t? It’s a really important job,” she said. “It’s critical to make sure we are able to attract people who care about good outcomes and making a difference.”
Looking back, Garret feels she has made an impact.
“What I learned in Springfield is I’m a good listener,” she said. “I’ve been able to work with Republicans and Democrats to come up with compromises and bipartisan approaches on tough issues.
“I never went to Springfield being partisan at all and it really made a difference.”