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Voice of the Southern 

 

Our View: Our region will have a much greater voice in Illinois state government
thanks to the efforts of Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon.

The Southern Illinoisan
January 12, 2011

For those of us concerned about the future of Southern Illinois and the role our region plays in state government, the era of renewed hope officially arrived at 12:35 p.m. Monday.

It was the moment when Sheila Simon took the oath of office as lieutenant governor, the second-highest position in state government and within a heartbeat of the position filled by Gov. Pat Quinn. It is a role that is destined to have a higher profile under Simon's watch - and one that sat well with the near-capacity crowd in Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.

It may never be possible to match the sustained and heartfelt applause given to a newly elected governor, and especially not one as likeable and down-to-earth as Quinn. But the welcoming Simon received upon assuming one of the state's six constitutional offices perhaps was just a decibel short of the applause given to Quinn.

From the floor of the convention center, both during the Inaugural Ceremony and during the Inaugural Ball, a great deal of public attention was focused on Simon. This woman we know as a neighbor, teacher and friend in Southern Illinois, as the daughter of the late, great U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, is embarking on a path offering power, prestige and popularity.

And why not? Southern Illinois will be less of an afterthought in Springfield with Simon on the job. She will bring a strong voice, tenacity, a caring nature and just-plain-old honesty into the governmental mix. In what may the most important duty for the new Quinn administration, Simon will oversee efforts to attain educational excellence and address the needs of children across Illinois.

It is an ideal pairing, one that relies on Simon's strengths to address the state's most critical need for the future. Educational excellence is the path to success, and it must be made available to all of the students in Illinois. Illinois needs to compete in the global marketplace, and the future contests will be won by those who are quick and smart.

"Together, we can ensure that children across the state have an opportunity for a high-quality education," Simon said, "whether they are from the metropolis at the northern end of our state, or Metropolis in the south."

Simon named students as she made her points to the crowd, and drew a few shouts of recognition with her mention of essay contest winners Mattie Hayes and Daisy Watkins, fifth-graders from Logan School in Murphysboro. To the people of our region, it was gratifying to hear Simon mention Carbondale, Murphysboro and Metropolis to the crowd - dominated by people from the Chicago area.

A larger stage is in the future for Simon - who built her reputation in our region as a public official, law school instructor, enthusiastic and talented musician, a seamstress who made her own inauguration day wardrobe, and devoted mother and wife.

Our region is proud of her. We wish her the very best success in all that she tackles. But we are most delighted by her decision to remain a resident of Carbondale and work primarily from an office planned for a state Department of Transportation building on Old Illinois 13. The people of Southern Illinois may have to share her, but we certainly won't be forgotten.