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McCaleb: Our representatives may have tough road ahead

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When the new General Assembly is sworn in in January, eight Illinois lawmakers whose districts cover a portion of McHenry County will be representing us in Springfield.

That’s up from five lawmakers representing portions of the county the past 10 years.

Despite that increase in number, it’s hard to say that the county will fare any better in Springfield because of what happened statewide.

The reason for the increase in representation is post-census redistricting.

McHenry County being a predominantly Republican County, the Democratic state leaders who redrew the legislative maps carved us up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Crystal Lake alone was sliced and diced into three representative and two Senate districts.

Depending on where you live in Crystal Lake, your state representative beginning next year either will be longtime state Rep. Mike Tryon from Crystal Lake; outgoing County Board member Barbara Wheeler, also from Crystal Lake; or investment banker David McSweeney of Barrington Hills. All are Republicans.

Also representing McHenry County in the state House is longtime Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo, who will continue to be the only Democrat from our area in Springfield, and Rep. Timothy Schmitz of Batavia, whose new district just nudges up into south central McHenry County near Huntley.

In the state Senate, the familiar Sens. Pam Althoff of McHenry and Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington will continue to serve. They will be joined by outgoing Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles. Her Senate district encompasses Tryon’s and Schmitz’s representative districts.

Unlike in McHenry County, voters statewide leaned heavily Democratic. In fact, Democrats picked up seven seats in the House and five in the Senate, giving them veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

If they wanted, elected state Democrats wouldn’t have to bother with their Republican counterparts for much of anything.

That’s a scary thought.

It’s pretty much been Democratic leadership in Springfield that’s put Illinois in the financial mess it’s in. Yet voters decided on Tuesday to put more of the same into office.

Of course, more of the same is what we can’t have. We desperately need pension reform and some semblance of fiscal responsibility.

It won’t be easy, but I wish our local lawmakers the best in fighting for the best interests of McHenry County taxpayers.

• • • 

Champions of Youth: I had the pleasure last week of attending the McHenry County Distinguished Citizens Dinner put on by the Boy Scouts of America – Blackhawk Area Council.

The Boy Scouts honored one individual and one group as their Champions of Youth for 2012. After sitting through the program, I’m confident in saying the Boy Scouts made outstanding choices.

Ron Ludwig, principal of Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake for the past 16 years, was the individual honoree.

In a moving video tribute, staff at Hannah Beardsley, former students, his wife and children praised Ludwig for his devotion to children.

He’s “never at home” because he’s always attending after-school events; he “never stops moving”; is “committed to doing what’s best for kids”; and he “knows every kid’s name” at Hannah Beardsley (enrollment, more than 1,000). These were among the many complimentary comments shared on the video.

“His life is being an educator,” said Ludwig’s oldest son, Ryan.

Interestingly, many in Ludwig’s family also are devoted educators. His wife, Rita, is a teacher at Indian Prairie Elementary School. Ryan is a special education teacher at Cary-Grove. Ryan’s wife, Jessica, teaches at Lundahl Middle School. And the Ludwigs’ daughter, Alex, is a special education teacher at Bernotas Middle School. Alex’s fiancé, Mike, is a special education teacher at Johnsburg High School.

The “rogue” in the family, youngest daughter Abby, is a CNA pursuing a BA in nursing, according to the night’s program.

Not surprisingly, Ludwig opened his remarks by acknowledging his students.

Girls on the Run of Northwest Illinois was named the Boy Scouts’ first-ever organizational Champion of Youth.

Girls on the Run is a program that seeks to build self-esteem and healthy lifestyles in girls ages 8 to 13 years old. While the program culminates with a 5K running event, it is about much more than athleticism.

The program gives the girls “the tools they need to deal with issues with dignity and grace so they come through with their heads held high,” said Laurie Dayon, executive director of Girls on the Run of Northwest Illinois.

Since 2007, 1,608 girls have participated in Girls on the Run locally, and 235 coaches have volunteered about 7,410 hours, according to its website.

I was first introduced to this great program this past spring when my daughter participated.

Congratulations to Ludwig and everyone involved with Girls on the Run for this well-deserved recognition.

• • •

Discharge records: McHenry County Recorder Phyllis Walters sent me a news release urging veterans to record their military discharge (DD-214) papers.

“Recording your military discharge papers ensures that certified copies of these documents are available for veterans to apply for benefits including medical care, VA loans and such,” Walters wrote.

Walters’ office will record these papers at no charge and can provide veterans with two certified copies for their own records.

Lost or misplaced discharge records can be replaced by the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

Call Walters at 815-334-4109 for information.

• • • 

Thank you: Speaking of veterans, today is Veterans Day. Join me in thanking all of our active and retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces for their bravery and sacrifice in preserving our country’s many freedoms.

We salute you.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NWHeditor.

Note to readers: This column has been chaged since its initial publication to correct the name of the military discharge papers to DD-214.

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