While I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, I've chosen to make Central Illinois my home because of all it has to offer:
World class educational institutions
I spent 12 years of my career at Heartland Community College, and I've seen firsthand how our universities and colleges enrich our communities economically and socially. I believe we need to make investment in education a priority in Illinois so our young citizens feel proud to stay here and contribute their talents to their home economy.
All the fun of the big city … just more affordable and easier to get to
From the Peoria riverfront to a resurgent downtown Bloomington, there is always something to do: farmers' markets, local sports, the Shakespeare festival, farm-to-table restaurants, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, Five Points Washington and so much more. All of these activities help us to feel more connected as a community; they also draw visitors from around the state, which stimulates our economy.
Although we sometimes take it for granted, there are not many places in the world you can turn in a circle and see 360 degrees of horizon, where you can witness beautiful sunrises, breathtaking sunsets, and lightning storms that are miles in the distance. My husband, Jeff Michels, and I enjoy stargazing, and we've spent many nights at the Sugar Grove Nature Center where the Twin City Amateur Astronomers hold their public observing sessions. Seeing the Milky Way with the naked eye or the rings of Saturn through a telescope is both awe-inspiring and humbling. And when you consider that the Illinois farms that populate the prairie contribute over $8.5 billion to our state economy, its importance is undeniable.
The community-minded people
If there's a need in a Central Illinois community, it's a safe bet that someone's going to volunteer to meet it. Whether it's the Special Olympics, 4-H, the YWCA, church committees or a PTO, the people of Central Illinois step up. The heart of our community was on full display when Washington was devastated by a tornado in 2013, and thousands volunteered to help with the cleanup and rebuilding process. I am proud to live in a place where the people come first. As the Representative for the 88th District, I will carry this love of community to Springfield and put the needs of the people ahead of party politics.