Alternative model Sara Lynn poses in a skeletal bodysuit, black skirt, and custom-made skull tiara in Greenwood Cemetery in Rockford, Illinois. I opted for a yellowish-tinted, well-lit background to contrast with her outfit. I think the purple streaks in her hair add the perfect dash of color.
Running for public office can be a rewarding experience, if you learn the right lessons. It’s a crash course in local government with few downsides but, perhaps, a bruised ego.
In 2012, while living in Rockford, Illinois, I did something I never thought of doing before. With little money and little experience, and with a lot of personal reservations, I decided to run for public office. While I ended up losing the race, I gained valuable insight and experience into local politics, and I saw a side to the process that most people never see. I hope demystifying this process will encourage others to get involved.
It began with a casual suggestion: We need people like you to run for office. Then, a thought: Why not? I chose to run for a seat on the Winnebago County Board in the Republican primary election.
In Winnebago County, Illinois in 2012, an aspiring candidate only needed 25 signatures for his or her name to appear on the primary ballot for the position of County Board Member (other elected positions require hundreds or thousands of signatures, and it is always a good idea to get twice as many as you need). After introducing myself and announcing my intentions at a community meeting, and being greeted by rowdy applause, I decided to commit myself to the race. Three other candidates, including the incumbent, joined me in declaring their intention to run.
High taxes, crime rates, and lack of opportunity cause residents to flee Illinois and post-industrial cities like Rockford.
I was born in Chicago and raised in the northwest suburbs. I moved to Rockford, Illinois after graduate school in 2008, where I hoped to make a life for myself. As my longtime readers know, I got involved in local politics and worked hard to promote the local community and address its social ills. Even as a student at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, I promoted Midwestern culture and urged my friends to stay in Illinois and fight to make it better. I honestly didn’t think I would ever leave.
Years went by and more and more of my friends and acquaintances moved away for greener pastures. Finally, I did too, enlisting in the Army and seeking to make a difference somewhere else. It became painfully clear I would have to uproot if I wanted to dramatically change my circumstances. The 2020 census will show just how many people joined this mass exodus. According to the latest estimates, Illinois is among the fastest shrinking states in terms of population, and Rockford is 15th in the country for highest percentage of population loss.
Since 2010, Rockford’s population has decreased by 5 percent. It was once the largest city in Illinois outside Chicago… it’s now the sixth. In December 2019, numerous websites reported Illinois as a whole saw six straight years of population loss. Anecdotally, I can name at least a dozen or more friends who have moved to other states over the past ten years, many with their families. I think when the final census data for 2020 is released, it’s going to be bad.
Beautiful neon sign for the Royal Liquor Mart, 3714 E. State Street (U.S. Route 20), in Rockford, Illinois.
Pink and orange neon sign (when lit) for Don Carter Lanes, at 4007 E. State Street (U.S. Route 20) in Rockford, Illinois. Don Carter Lanes opened in 1959 and has greatly expanded over the years, lately incorporating an off-track betting room.