2002.02.22: February 22, 2002: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Politics: Congress: Independent Media Center: Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher was a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 2002

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sierra Leone: Peace Corps Sierra Leone : The Peace Corps in Sierra Leone: 2006.09.03: September 3, 2006: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Politics: Congress: State Journal-Register: Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher is a new staff member for Senator Barack Obama : 2002.02.22: February 22, 2002: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Politics: Congress: Independent Media Center: Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher was a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 2002

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-245-27-107.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Thursday, September 21, 2006 - 8:57 am: Edit Post

Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher was a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 2002

Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher was a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 2002

"African culture prepared me for Congressional culture. In Congressional offices, the pace of change is slower than in Africa. Is my Peace Corps experience directly relevant? I don't know, but that experience convinced me that I was going to be in public service."

Sierra Leone RPCV Mike Kelleher was a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 2002

Mr. Kelleher Goes to Springfield?

Mike Kelleher, director of ISU's Adlai Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development for the past six years, is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. A former Peace Corps volunteer and Congressional staffer, Kelleher administers the Peace Corps Fellows program, which provides former Peace Corps volunteers with specialized training to assist struggling rural and urban communities across the state. Kelleher, 40, resides with his wife Karin and three young daughters in Normal.

Mike KelleherLast year he narrowly lost a closely fought U.S. Congressional race against Tim Johnson (R). Kelleher's platform, Clean Sweep, has won him the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Independent Voters of Illinois, Planned Parenthood, the Democratic County Chairmen's Association, and Citizen Action/Illinois.

Interviewed by Gretchen E. Knapp

Indy: What exactly does the lieutenant governor of Illinois do, and why would someone want to be elected to that position?

MK: The [state] constitution does not have any specific provisions for the lieutenant governor's duties, but there are statutory provisions that give the lieutenant governor authority over economic development, the environment, and rural affairs, such as the Illinois Main Street program, Illinois Rivers Council, the 2020 plan the lieutenant governor will be very involved in these areas.

At the Stevenson Center we worked with the rural affairs council with money for leadership development, we worked with the Illinois Main Street program in at least 30 communities (for example, Mundelein). We are interested in bond issues for rural communities and helped connect them to state agencies. I am very interested in the Illinois watershed protection program.

Any public office uses the bully pulpit to promote issues that are important, that help working people to have an advocate for issues ranging from child care to workplace safety and health care issues, and issues like public leadership, protecting individual rights, and reproductive freedom. Lieutenant governor is a flexible position so that I can be of service in different ways and I am excited about that.

Indy: How have your experiences in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, as a staffer in Congressional offices, and as Director of the Stevenson Center and Peace Corps Fellows program at ISU prepared you for the state's second-highest office?

MK: The Stevenson Center works closely with the lieutenant governor's office and has many of the same functions that are given to the lieutenant governor's office, such as rural development. Is my Peace Corps experience directly relevant? I don't know, but that experience convinced me that I was going to be in public service.

I never took a job for the money - that was never the primary consideration for me. Given what political candidates today have to go through for three years, you better like meeting people from all walks of life. Working in Sierra Leone gave me experience in working with diverse groups and trying to bridge the gap. That's what politics is all about - making sure that people with differing views and needs can come together for a common purpose. I like those kinds of challenges.

African culture prepared me for Congressional culture. In Congressional offices, the pace of change is slower than in Africa. And in my work as a Congressional aide I saw good leadership skills and not so good leadership skills.

Indy: Although the number of residents in voting districts near universities is high because of the student population, voter turnout historically has been very low, especially for primaries. With the March 19 primary fast approaching, how can we encourage our newest voters to get out and vote?

MK: I think if you like the world the way it is - if you want someone else to determine what your world should look like and you're willing to live with the consequences, then you don't have to vote. If you really feel like there's something you feel can be improved, or there are principles you'd like to be upheld, you have to care at least enough to register to vote. If you don't, someone else will determine what values our country will uphold and what the world will look like in our lifetimes.

Indy: Many of the college and university students in Bloomington-Normal are from middle-class families. How will your program assist middle-class families in Illinois in paying for their children's higher education?

MK: We as a state are cutting back on programs to help students at present. The student assistance program has been drained of cash, we're in a deep budget crisis, and we blew a lot of money over the last five years. Yet we're increasing tuition at the U. of Illinois 10% while state support for primary and secondary education is failing. Those are the kinds of things in tough times we need to maintain.

We've been floating student fees higher and higher. We ought to make every family eligible to send their kids to school, especially low income or middle income families. Often higher income families have resources to send their children to college; the others don't.

For those who want to teach, an Illinois Teacher Corps would provide financial incentives for our new teachers to work in challenged public schools.

Indy: Personal PAC, the state's largest bipartisan pro-choice political action committee, recently endorsed your candidacy. Could you tell us more about your position on this sensitive issue?

MK: It's an issue that's very personal and something that should be between a woman and her doctor in consultation with her God and anyone else that she'd like to consult. And the government should stay out of it.

Indy: As you know, most ISU graduates are Illinois natives who prefer to work and raise their families in Illinois. How do you propose to address the balance between economic development and long-term quality of life? How can our state best manage regional growth as is evident everywhere in McLean County?

MK: We need a plan. We need to think carefully about our decisions based on good information and solid data. We learn that people after they see what rapid growth has done to the community often have said, "why did we do that?" Communities need resources for planning. That is one of the roles of the lieutenant governor's office.

Rural communities are struggling with growth but it's such a long-term process. I have been doing this [helping rural communities] for six years and that is short term. I'd like to see how these communities are doing 10 to 15 years down the line. There are a lot of effects on these communities. One of these things we respect is their view on planning, because they have to live with the consequences, as do we.

Indy: Throughout the nation Americans are increasingly eager to rely less on Mideast oil and other fossil fuels. How can Illinois increase the use of renewable energy from wind, sun, and other abundant resources? Tell us about your Green Power Purchase program.

MK: I think that's a great idea that we should ask utilities to encourage - we should require them to produce a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources (say, 8%) and give tax credits for making those kinds of decision. We need to make the market reward the decision to produce renewable energy. The Sierra Club says we have best potential for wind power in the state in McLean County. And if there are developers who want to use this windsource, and state government helps, and local government concurs, why not go forward if it's a great fit for the communities?

Indy: Scandals have rocked the present gubernatorial administration. How does your Clean Sweep platform address political corruption?

MK: Ethical reform is the basic need in solving our state government's problems. State employers can and do ask their employers for money for political campaigns, and that has to stop. We should ban employers from asking employees for money for political purpose. We also should ban those employees from giving the benefits to employers. We should also limit the amount of contributions that can be given from a potential or actual state vendor. We should also disclose fully and rapidly all large contributions, especially when those contributions are made by lobbyists. We need to go toward a system that limits contributions.

Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. If you have full disclosure and everyone knows what's happening, that makes it more likely that the worst won't happen. The public can't stomach corruption. I have to live with the existing system. I can't unilaterally disarm in my campaign. The federal system has its problems, but compared to the Illinois system it's as clean as the driven snow.

Indy: Is there anything you'd like to add?

MK: If you are interested in making some fundamental changes in how our state government is run, consider becoming a volunteer. The campaign website is http://www.Kelleher2002.com, the email address is Mike@Kelleher2002.com, and the office phone number is 888-9744.

When this story was posted in September 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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