Get to know Senate President Don Harmon

Editor’s note: FarmWeek asked the legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly for their priorities and views. House Republican Leader Tony McCombie will be featured in an upcoming issue. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch was featured Feb. 13.

Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park native, has served as Senate President since January 2021. The Democrat has served in the Illinois Senate since 2003.

Harmon received a bachelor’s degree from Knox College in Galesburg, and a law degree and master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He and his wife, Teresa, are the parents of three children, Don, Frances and Margaret.

FarmWeek: What are some of your top priorities this session?

Harmon: My No. 1 priority is the financial stability of our state. Unfortunately, we all lived through the nightmare of the state being unable to pay its bills and the economic shockwaves that sent through our local communities.

In recent years, the Senate and House, working with the governor, turned this around to where we are caught up on payments and funding to local businesses, local schools and other vendors and institutions. That work has paid off. You see it in a record number of credit upgrades as the financial sector sees an improving Illinois.

Illinois needs a stable foundation on which to build and improve. And that’s why I remain committed to balanced budgets, honoring our promises and commitments and taking the needed steps to ensure a stable economy on which our communities can prosper.

FarmWeek: How do you envision working with different sectors, including agriculture?

Harmon: An open-line, open-door policy toward communication is vital. One of the greatest things about being a lawmaker and especially being in the role of Senate president is getting to meet new people and learn about issues and life experiences different from my own.

A healthy intellectual curiosity and appreciation of diversity is, in my opinion, a key requirement of being a public official. My approach has always been, and continues to be, to bring people together for an open, honest discussion and try to find a path forward. More often than not, we find shared goals among differing interests.

It’s also important to surround yourself with people who bring a variety of viewpoints and expertise to the workplace. Agriculture is a great example. I am not a farmer nor did I grow up on a farm. But people in key positions in my office did, and I value and rely on that perspective, experience and expertise to help inform me about issues.

FarmWeek: What do you recommend as the best ways to communicate and work with lawmakers?

Harmon: A good old-fashioned call, letter or email is still a great way to reach us, and you can find contact information on our websites. Now that it’s safer to do so, we are happily out and about in our communities. Stop by a town hall or local event.

At the same time, the world is changing, and we are changing with it. We are still utilizing Zoom and find it’s a great way to have that face-to-face contact with someone when they might not be able to make the trek to Springfield or to our district offices.

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March 14, 2023 at 03:08AM

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