Last year, State Rep. Margo McDermed announced she would not seek reelection to her seat in the Illinois General Assembly in 2020.
As she prepares to leave office, the Mokena Republican spoke with The Herald-News to reflect on her time in Springfield.
McDermed worked for 30 years as a corporate lawyer, what she calls her first career.
She eventually decided to jump into local government where she's served on the Frankfort Township Board, as the Frankfort Township Clerk and on the Will County Board.
She said she liked the way local government can provide direct services to residents.
"I enjoyed that," she said. "You're very close to people."
Then, she said, State Rep. Renee Kosel decided to retire from the seat representing her area in the Illinois House and asked McDermed to run for the position in 2014. McDermed said even then, the prospect of taking on challenges affecting millions of Illinoisans was formidable, but she was up to the task.
"When somebody offers you a challenge, I'm not the kind of person that's going to walk away because it's hard," she said.
She ran and won.
Representing a conservative district, she said she was able to vote in step with the conservative values of her constituents, even if the state government had been dominated by Democrats.
Though right when McDermed was coming into office, so was a new Republican governor, businessman Bruce Rauner.
Even though McDermed agreed with Rauner's diagnosis of the state's financial and structural problems, she said he was never able to figure out how to work in government.
"He didn't have a clue," she said.
The representative added that Rauner was also not one to take advice from lawmakers.
The Rauner years were marked by a two-year budget impasse in which Rauner and Democrats couldn't agree on much.
But Republicans like McDermed have also pointed fingers at the longtime Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
McDermed argued the legislative process in Springfield hardly resembles the one described in many civics textbooks, because it's really Madigan who controls the agenda.
To get bills passed, she said, advocates have go to the speaker and "kiss the ring."
She pointed to the bribery scheme he's been linked to, though not charged in. McDermed was among the many Republicans who have called on Madigan to resign, and more House Democrats have said they won't support him as speaker next term.
Even though Republicans have used Madigan's influence and scandals to attack their Democratic opponents, the GOP has found little electoral success. McDermed said she wasn't sure why Republicans haven't been able to successfully convince voters to reject the Democratic stronghold.
When asked to point to her most significant achievements as a member of the Illinois Senate, McDermed touted her work to enhance the state's tracking system for evidence related to a sexual assault.
"I think that was a really good bill and we're seeing some good results from it," she said.
Despite the challenges, McDermed said she has most enjoyed getting to engage and help her constituents. She said connecting with them has been the most rewarding part of her time in Springfield.
"I think the fun part of it is relating to the people in the 37th District," she said. "Whatever their political persuasion is, I think that's why people like the job."