Youth perspective: Litesa Wallace a good choice for progress
Many of us were surprised last month when Rep. Chuck Jefferson announced his retirement from the Illinois House of Representatives. Not as many of us were surprised when a few weeks ago his Chief of Staff, Litesa Wallace, was tapped to replace him in the Illinois State House.
Rep. Jefferson did a great job representing the people of the 67th district, but Wallace will offer a fresh perspective that will only increase the quality of the representation afforded to residents of the district. Being both young and a woman will allow Wallace to bring a unique perspective to her service in Springfield.
Wallace represents a stark contrast with Rep. Jefferson when it comes to age. At 36, she is almost three decades younger than Jefferson; a fact that she has already pointed out will make a difference in how she approaches the numerous state level issues we are facing.
This fresh perspective is important as we try to solve all of the problems confronting us today. One of the common arguments against younger people holding political office is that they do not possess enough experience. However, no one is saying that if current lawmakers had more experience, we would not have the problems we do today.
If anything, younger representatives like Wallace will be more open to alternative solutions to the problems plaguing Illinois rather than what lawmakers have been doing for the last few years. Being a woman will also supplement Wallace's perspective when legislating in Springfield.
The importance of having women in lawmaking positions cannot be understated. Politics and lawmaking have both been dominated by men for centuries, with women only recently making substantial gains in terms of participation. Even today in 2014, Louisiana only has 17 women serving in its state legislature, a measly 12 percent of its state lawmakers.
Here in Illinois, we are doing better. 31 percent of our state lawmakers are women, and that goes up to 33 percent when you look at just the State House of Representatives. However, both of these proportions are inadequate when we live in a state where 51 percent of the population is female.
Beyond just a proportional representation issue, Wallace will also help address problems with the visibility of female lawmakers. What interest will young women have in lawmaking if they do not see women actively and equally participating in the process?
By being a female state lawmaker in the Rockford area, Wallace will be empowering countless other young women who have not seen a female state office holder in the Rockford area since Rep. Barb Giolitto in the 1990s. And while her presence was certainly appreciated, her district was the old 69th district, which was based primarily in Boone County, and only contained a small part of Rockford.
Despite these positives, Wallace's appointment is not the end of progress in terms of youth and female representation. She will only raise female representation in the State House up to about 34 percent of members and will be limited by a relative lack of seniority.
However, Wallace represents an important step toward the eventual goal of having appropriate gender representation in government. She also will also help the state progress through the uncertainties in our future by voicing the opinions of a younger group of people that are beginning to rise to political prominence.
Source: Rockford Register Star