When lawmakers failed to pass a state budget for more than two years, Howard Peters and his fellow AARP volunteers took action.
Peters, 73, a retired management consultant and member of the AARP Illinois Executive Council, participated in an “Enough is Enough” public forum, successfully urging legislators to end the prolonged budget standoff.
“That was the finest-hour effort on the part of AARP,” said Peters, of Springfield.
But their work is far from over. Though the General Assembly finally passed a budget in 2017, AARP’s “Enough is Enough” campaign is ongoing.
It is pushing for officials to continue working to stabilize the state’s finances and making sure vulnerable citizens receive the services they need.
AARP Illinois is looking for more people like Peters to join its volunteer Executive Council.
“I consider the Executive Council my peers,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois state director, who also serves as one of its members. “They bring information, experience and knowledge that I don’t necessarily have myself to make the right decisions for moving forward in the state.”
The council helps guide AARP’s statewide policy priorities and advocacy efforts and will offer input on several upcoming issues.
One is a ballot proposal for next year’s election to remove the state’s constitutional requirement of a flat income tax and allow for a progressive one.
The 2020 census’s impact on the state’s federal funding and the fight against high prescription drug costs are other key issues.
Bringing leadership skills
The Executive Council has nine members, each of whom can serve up to three two-year terms.
And this month there will be an opportunity to bring new and diverse perspectives to the group, as the terms of five current members expire.
The council meets four times a year, and the time commitment beyond that is up to the individuals who serve on it, said the group’s president, Rosanna Marquez, 60, of Chicago.
Marquez, who is also AARP Illinois’ volunteer state president, wants the council to expand to between nine and 13 members and represent more parts of the state.
“What 50-plus people want and are looking for help with is different than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago,” she said. “They see their postretirement life as being very different” from past generations.
Qualifications for Executive Council members include a commitment to AARP’s goals and priorities, a thorough knowledge of state issues and a career that included professional leadership.
One benefit of membership: the company of highly accomplished people.
Marquez, who has a law degree from Harvard, served as the director of programs for former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and was on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition team.
Peters ran the Illinois Department of Corrections. Another council member, Nancy Chen, 75, of Naperville, was regional director of the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor.
To express interest in AARP Illinois’ Executive Council, contact Ellen Acevedo at email@example.com or 312-458-3626.
Lisa Bertagnoli is writer living in Chicago.