Making Illinois government a little more transparent with high ethical standards is the legacy retiring state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) hopes to leave when her 14-year career in the Illinois General Assembly ends Tuesday.
Garrett, who grew up in Deerfield and has lived most of her adult life in Lake Forest, made some of her strongest contributions to issues important to the northern suburbs like transportation on rails and roads.
“I hope that will be in ethics reform in many different levels of leadership including the tollway, highways and Metra,” Garrett said when asked to pick one thing he believes has drawn her attention most.
The office of inspector general for the Illinois Tollway Authority, Metra and the Illinois Department of Transportation was created in large part because of Garrett’s efforts. “These are long term reforms that will make state government accountable,” she said.
Garrett has not been afraid to tackle issues which she felt were important for the people of Illinois but unpopular with her colleagues in the General Assembly. In 2008, with the recession affecting people throughout the state, she did not think the time was right to increase legislative pay.
“I was the first legislator to come out against increasing our salaries,” Garrett said of the 15 percent hike members wanted to give themselves during the Great Recession. “I really felt it was wrong when people were losing their homes.”
During her first two years in the State Senate, Garrett was a member of the Health Care Committee which was chaired by then state Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago). She experienced the President’s leadership style long before he got to the White House.
“He was very thorough,” Garrett said. “He allowed everyone to talk and be part of the process. He was more informed and his best influence was his leadership.” She told how he was also inclusive through meetings he would hold to help people prepare before a hearing.
l, raised their two children in Lake Forest. An activist before joining the General Assembly, she continued that role after she was elected and plans to transition that pursuit to fit what she will do once she retires.
She plans to stay involved with issues important to her but will not be influencing legislation. “I have no interest in being a lobbyist,” she said. Pushing ideas which call to her is another matter though she plans to take a little time to figure it out.
“What I would like to do is be active for people through a not for profit (organization) or set up an advocacy group,” Garrett said. “I will remain involved with issues I am passionate about. I want to do something I absolutely love.”
She also made it clear anything that comes next in her career will wait until her term is over. “I’m not committing to anything until Jan. 9,” she said.