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State Rep. Ryg resigning to lead children's advocacy group
By Mick Zawislak | Daily Herald Staff

Kathleen Ryg


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Published: 8/17/2009 12:24 PM | Updated: 8/17/2009 5:42 PM

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Democratic state representative Kathy Ryg will resign from the 59th District seat effective Aug. 31 to take a job leading a children's advocacy group, she announced Monday.

First elected in 2002, Ryg said she was excited at the chance to become president of Voices for Illinois Children, a privately-funded organization that has worked since 1987 to improve education, health care and economic security conditions for children and families throughout the state.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," she said. "Everything has led me in this direction."

The 59th District covers east-central Lake County and northern Cook County, from Park City to Vernon Hills and Wheeling. She easily won re-election to a fourth term last November with 64 percent of the vote.

Lake County Democratic Chairman Terry Link said he will meet with Wheeling Township committeemen to choose a replacement. Ideally, that person would fill the remainder of Ryg's term and be the Democratic candidate in November 2010.

Link said Monday he had received several phone calls regarding the slot, but acknowledged it would be difficult to replace Ryg.

"My goal is to get this done as soon as possible," he said. "There are a lot of people out there who are immensely qualified."

As a legislator, Ryg was known for a bipartisan approach with a focus on children and family issues. Before her political career, she was a counselor and administrator for programs dealing with the developmentally disabled and mentally ill, issues she also pursued as a state representative.

As a member of the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership she was a "forceful proponent of its work to strengthen prevention, early intervention and treatment for youngsters' social and emotional needs," according to the Voices for Children Web site.

During a conference call Monday, Craig Culbertson, chair of the organization's board of directors, described Ryg as a "passionate advocate" for children and families.

"Her support has been crucial," in advances for those causes, he added.

Ryg has forged working relationships with educators, law enforcement officials, social service providers, and elected and business leaders, and has been praised by legislators from both parties.

Locally, Ryg founded the Lake County After School Coalition and was co-chair of the Lake County YMCA Healthy Lake County initiative. She said education funding reform and access to health care would be among her priorities.

"I'm just grateful I get to focus on work I believe so strongly in," she said of the new position, which begins Sept. 1. She said she will remain a Vernon Hills resident and commute to the job in Chicago.

She worked closely with the organization as a legislator and will become the second president in its history, replacing Jerry Stermer, who left in February to become Gov. Pat Quinn's chief of staff.

Ryg said circumstances leading to her decision surfaced quickly, but the timing is right as the legislative session has ended.

"The election cycle is beginning. This gives interested parties a chance to put their name in," she said. "With this announcement, I am disengaging from the election politics."

On Saturday, Dan Sugrue, a Republican from Green Oaks, announced his intent to challenge a second time for the seat. He said Monday he was happy for Ryg, but had been unaware of her announcement.

"It's a good chance for people in the 59th District to get a fresh start," he said.