2013 'Paul Simon Courage in Public Service Award' Honors the Late Dawn Clark Netsch; State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Speaks about Netsch and Her Legacy at Award Ceremony
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2013 ‘Paul Simon Courage in Public Service Award’ Honors the Late Dawn Clark Netsch; State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka Speaks about Netsch and Her Legacy at Award Ceremony
On May 8, the Paul Simon Courage in Public Service Award was presented posthumously to the late Dawn Clark Netsch by organizers of Lutheran Day, an annual education and advocacy day held by Lutheran human service organizations in Springfield. Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka spoke at the ceremony, part of annual Lutheran Day activities, which was held in the Capitol Rotunda. As a legislator, Netsch, who died on March 5, 2013, fought for equality among the disenfranchised — including women, immigrants and minorities, along with funding for public education, and fair, open and accountable government.
“Dawn Clark Netsch was very, very special,” said Topinka, who gave a moving speech about her dear friend and colleague. “The Paul Simon Courage in Public Service Award is a prestigious award — the woman who’s getting this award really deserves it. She faithfully and fearlessly rose above party politics. She reminded us that government was there to serve taxpayers.”
The Paul Simon Courage in Public Service Award was created in 2004 by several Lutheran organizations, along with Patti Simon, widow of the late senator, to recognize Illinois public officials who demonstrate a commitment to just, compassionate and responsible public policy, in memory of Simon, one of the states greatest Lutherans and public servants.
In the past, recipients have included the men and women serving in the Illinois National Guard; Michelle Saddler, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS); Senator Kwame Raoul (13th District); Illinois Governor Pat Quinn; Rep. Barbara Flynn-Currie, majority leader, Ill. House of Representatives; the late U.S. Representative Lane Evans (17th Congressional District) and Joe Hartzler, assistant U.S. attorney; James R. Thompson, former Illinois governor and member of the 911 Commission and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
In nominating Netsch, Dan Schwick, vice president of church and community engagement at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), says, “Her dedication to honest government prevented the cynicism and cronyism that are impediments to high quality human services provided in a transparent funding environment. We who provide social services in partnership with state government, and our clients, benefited greatly from her strong public advocacy for public officials and government offices to operate by the highest ethical standards.”
In 1970, Netsch served as a delegate at the Illinois Constitutional Convention. She was a state senator for 16 years and was elected as state comptroller in 1990. Her most notable defeat, in the governor’s race in 1994 to Jim Edgar, exemplified her wisdom, influence and courage in public service. Candidate Edgar criticized Netsch for proposing a “tax swap” to support education funding. After his election, he recognized the wisdom of her policy preference and pushed a similar plan himself. In her last two years, Netsch served on the City of Chicago Task Force for Ethics Reform, and late last year, she was assigned to a task force to monitor the new state campaign finance law.
Lutheran agencies involved in Lutheran Day include Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI); Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS); Advocate Health Care; Mosaic; Bethesda Lutheran Communities; Concordia Place; Saint Luke Ministries; Bethel New Life; and Holy Ministry Ministries. Lutheran Advocacy-Illinois, a grassroots justice advocacy organization, also sponsors Lutheran Day. For more information, visit www.LutheranDay.org.
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About Lutheran Day:
Lutheran Day was created in 2004 when two Lutheran human service provider organizations — Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) and Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) — recognized that they had common concerns relating to their partnerships with state government, specifically with inadequate state funding for human services and the larger issue of inadequate and unsustainable state revenue to cover the cost of all state programs. As a result of those meetings, the two organizations resolved to reach out to other Lutheran human service provider organizations in Illinois to combine and organize their voices and constituencies to support the strengthening of the public-private human services safety net in Illinois.