Earlier this month I took the oath of office for my fifth and last time. I am writing to thank your readers for giving me the honor and privilege to serve as their Illinois secretary of state for a historic fifth term.
Illinoisans deserve the very best from their government. As secretary of state, it has been and continues to be my mission to run the office with honor, integrity and in a manner that the public deserves. This is a responsibility that I have never, and will never, take for granted.
Since 1999, when I first took the oath of office for secretary of state, I have focused my work to restore integrity, to make the office more efficient and customer-friendly, and to make our roads safer. I am proud to say that we have made great strides in each of these important areas.
Working with my inspector general, Jim Burns, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, we have changed the culture of the office, restoring integrity and weeding out corruption and wrongdoing.
Through the implementation of new technologies and streamlined operations, wait times at driver services facilities have been significantly reduced. My job is not done, and we will be rolling out new initiatives that will further improve customer service.
To make the roads safer, we toughened our DUI laws, which are now considered the best in the country. Since 1999, drunk driving fatalities have dropped by 60 percent. But we didn’t stop there.
Nationally, the leading cause of death for teens is traffic crashes. Tragically, in a 15-month stretch between 2005 and 2006, 15 teenagers in Tazewell County lost their lives on Illinois roads. I was heartbroken, and I was angry. As secretary of state, I needed to do something about it.
I created a task force made up of legislators, educators, law enforcement officers, judges and traffic safety experts from around the state and country.
Together, we revamped the licensing program for new teen drivers. We required more training, extended the length of the learner’s permit, and enhanced the penalties for failing to comply with the program. The result: Teen driving deaths in Illinois have dropped by more than 57 percent.
That’s good, but let’s be clear — I’m still not satisfied. One death is one too many.
That’s why I will be reconvening our traffic safety task force to further improve road safety initiatives.
Before closing, I want to remind your readers that I served our country as a paratrooper in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. We had a saying there: when you jump out of an airplane, you don’t go half way, you go all the way.
That’s the way I live my life. I never quit.
And that’s why I thank the people of Illinois for the opportunity to continue serving them over the next four years.
Illinois Secretary of State