With the headlines focused on the full-bore ascendency of Democrats in Illinois, attention rightly turns to new Governor J.B. Pritzker and the swearing-in recently of an all-Democratic roster of state constitutional officers.

Our headline, though, is on the deserved recognition of a veteran local Democratic state senator who has risen to the heights of influence within the senate.

Winning a dramatic promotion is Sen. Kimberly Lightford. The Maywood native represents portions of all of North Riverside, a good chunk of Brookfield’s north end and most of Proviso Township. She has now been appointed Senate majority leader, the number two post in the Senate.  

Certainly, it is notable that Lightford becomes the first black woman to hold this post. She is also president of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, another post of considerable influence.

Beyond that is Lightford’s considerable political and policy chops. She earned this post because she is a legislator with clear policy priorities, focusing directly on unmet needs in her communities. She is savvy and persistent enough to make those priorities real on-the-ground change.

We look particularly at Lightford’s public education focus and the statewide impact of her legislation, which forced high school districts to radically change direction on suspensions and expulsions of students. 

This is a restorative justice approach that makes so much sense and goes straight to the inequities in how schools have dispensed discipline along racial lines.

Our communities have offered up a state legislator with progressive values, deep knowledge and political skills to make genuine change happen.