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*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day: 2021 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Monday, Dec 6, 2021

* December on this blog means two things: Golden Horseshoe Awards and LSSI fundraising. Let’s get to the fundraising first.

Foster care is just one of many programs offered by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Mariah Heinz at LSSI explains the importance of the program…

With a history of helping children and families that dates back to 1867, LSSI is the largest provider of foster care services in Illinois. LSSI’s programs include Therapeutic Foster Care which is designed to meet the unique needs of children who have experienced severe trauma and abuse/neglect, providing services such as counseling and specialized training for foster parents, working to keep these children in homes rather than institutional settings.

Working together, LSSI’s staff, foster parents, donors, and volunteers make a difference in the lives of children across our state. LSSI’s Foster Care Services help over 2,700 children every year. These are children and families in communities in 42 counties throughout Illinois. At LSSI, there is no greater role than being entrusted with the care of children. As one of our foster care staff stated so eloquently, “We’re not here to just provide a service, but to give children in foster care their own calling.

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois has been near and dear to my heart and to many of yours for a long time. LSSI not only runs a foster care program, but they also do home care for senior citizens, provide free mental health crisis services, collect Christmas gifts for foster kids and so much more.

This state’s social safety net relies on outstanding groups like LSSI to provide much-needed services. But they can’t do it on government money alone. They need our help, which is why we stand up for them every year.

So, please click here and donate. And to get y’all in the giving spirit, I’ll match the first $2,000 in contributions. Thanks so very much and happy holidays!

* On to the Golden Horseshoe Awards. This year’s award categories will be similar to last year’s, which were a bit slimmer than usual. Our first 2021 categories…

Best legislative assistant/district office manager - House Democrats

Best legislative assistant/district office manager - House Republicans

Please try your best to nominate in both categories. And remember to explain your answer or your vote will not count. This is not a poll. Nomination intensity matters most.

And after you’re finished voting, please click here to donate to LSSI. Their goal is to provide a Christmas gift for each of the 2,530 children served by LSSI.

*** UPDATE *** We’ve reached the $2,000 mark, so I’ve made my matching donation. Thanks! Click here to donate.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Nanook from Northbrook - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 1:02 pm:

    Best District Office Staffer is easily Mike Amarilio from Rep Carroll’s office. During the pandemic he worked overtime plus to make sure people were getting benefits. He’s also takes the time to get to know all of the constituents and provides a level of service we don’t see from a state office. I don’t always love his boss, but I will continue to vote for him because of Mike. He’s a real blessing in our district.

  2. - Another Perspective - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 1:27 pm:

    This should be an easy one this year. Mika Baugher, the LA for Speaker Welch, has crushed it this year. Whether its a meeting with the new Speaker or just a phone call, she has made it look easy when I’m sure it’s not. Welch’s calendar has to be much more difficult than Madigan’s ever was because MJM didn’t meet with anyone. But someone has to get credit for facilitating access to the new Speaker. That has to be Mika Baugher.

  3. - Annonin' - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 1:46 pm:

    Mr/Ms AP:
    while you seem to know little about the office operation, your support of Ms. Baugher is on track. A challenging transition made easier by her skill.

  4. - Candy Dogood - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 1:50 pm:

    These are always a challenge because there are a lot of great folks that fill those positions and for a lot of reasons I don’t want to get specific.

    Given all of the challenges that have been faced by staff throughout I think all of the legislative assistants/district office managers deserve a shout out. 2020 was a tough year and 2021 has also been a tough year and part of their job involves keeping some of the challenges they’ve faced or that they’ve helped others face to themselves.

  5. - Someone you Should Know - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 2:06 pm:

    Mika Baugher has been spectacular in the Speaker’s Office, She has most definitely kept the trains coming on time. We all know how Energetic the Speaker can be. Mika has kept him grounded and always on target in terms of meetings and the like. She is most deserving of this award.

  6. - Honest Abe - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 2:11 pm:

    Hands Down, Mika Baugher!! She has done an excellent job with the transition from Madigan to Welch. Always returns calls and makes the new speaker accessible for meetings.

  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 2:12 pm:

    Try to nominate in both categories, please.

  8. - Not Brian - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 3:29 pm:

    For Republican Staff, Cheri Hermes with Leader Durkin’s Springfield Office.

    Cheri does all the normal stuff so well but in addition brings some fun and flavor to the capitol with many skills that aren’t easily seen by the public.

    She deftly handles putting up with certain lobbyists who think they have dibs on the chair by her desk on a daily basis. She always keeps the office stocked with supplies you didn’t even know you needed till 9pm on a session night rolls around. She has an unnatural ability to know just about everyone in the greater Sangamon County area and can quickly secure anything from seamstress services to after-hours restaurant delivers in mere moments. She also can trim your hair if you are a bit shaggy.

    For the Democrats I would have to go with Maralea Negron formerly with Kelly Cassidy now with DPI. I think that sums her up so well, a great advocate and policy person who also understood the politics of her boss.

  9. - And The Nominees Are... - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 4:21 pm:

    Mika Baugher and Katherine Galloway have both hit the ground running for new legislative leaders.

  10. - SaulGoodman - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 4:32 pm:

    Maralea (Lea, to most of us) Negron is a rockstar, and was an incredible district staffer for Rep. Cassidy. She was and is always responsive, understands policy, understands how to navigate the politics, and understands how to get things done.

    She’s moved on to DPI (and they’re LUCKY to have her), but she has kept the many trains running in Cassidy’s office as Rep Cassidy has navigated many tough pieces of legislation and HDEM politics, and will be able to do the same for DPI.

  11. - NotMe - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 4:36 pm:

    For Democrats, Maralea Negron, who recently left Rep. Cassidy’s office after keeping that office on track through passage of the Reproductive Health Act, cannabis legalization, and the Representative’s protracted battles with MJM. Anyone who can survive that and then go on to work for the state party post Madigan is Golden Horseshoe worthy.
    For Republicans, Cheri Herme’s in Leader Durkin’s Springfield office is a calm and steady hand in a space that often is overrun with humans seeking the leader’s attention or just a place to be during long session nights.

  12. - SaulGoodman - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 4:38 pm:

    Oh… on the HGOP side… to be honest, did a lot less with them this year, but Cheri has always been great and accessible. I don’t envy any staffer for a caucus leader, and Cheri has consistently been kind and responsive in the midst of neverending craziness.

  13. - Take a closer look - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 5:27 pm:

    Mika Baugher deserves a close look on the Dem side as does Durkin’s assistant on the Republican side.

  14. - Sharon - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 9:05 pm:

    Hands down Cheri in Durkin’s capitol office. There is nothing this woman isn’t capable of handling, in particular the management of SEVERAL different personalities that go in and out of that office every day. She is a true gem

  15. - I don’t have a name - Monday, Dec 6, 21 @ 9:50 pm:

    Lea Negron from Rep. Cassidy’s office is phenomenal. Her boss is beyond busy working on all of the things. Lea is smart, supportive and professional. I’ve never had such a supportive and affirming no and someone who will do what it takes to get to a yes! I know she’s leaving, but her skills should be recognized and appreciated.

  16. - KT - Tuesday, Dec 7, 21 @ 10:44 am:

    Dem: Jasmine Rubio from Rep. Dagmara Avelar’s District Office. Not only did Jasmine transition into this role smoothly, but did so while being able to coordinate district-wide events, maintaining relationships with local electeds, providing top-notch constituent services, and also keeping track of a brand new Rep’s schedule. It’s not easy to start a brand new office and also navigate the world of State services without any prior knowledge and Jasmine did so seamlessly.

    Republican: Leader Spain/Demmer’s Capitol staff are always incredibly friendly and nice to work with.

  17. - 30 years in - Tuesday, Dec 7, 21 @ 4:21 pm:

    Jenna Rossi with Tom Cullerton. Always pleasant and follows through even when she may not have an immediate answer. She is quick to resolve problems. Jenna consistently handled problematic issues resulting from the pandemic and manages to ensure successful operation at the Capitol for her office. She has handled all the added stress of from her office and maintained confidence and composure at every turn. She’s one of the best and deserves this award.

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