Terry Mutchler, 42, who has been Attorney General Lisa Madigan's public access counselor since late 2004, is moving to her home state of Pennsylvania to become executive director of that state’s new Office of Open Records.
TERRY MUTCHLER, 42, who has been Attorney General LISA MADIGAN’s public access counselor since late 2004, is moving to her home state of Pennsylvania to become executive director of that state’s new Office of Open Records.
Mutchler, who was Statehouse bureau chief for The Associated Press before becoming a lawyer, had been an assistant attorney general for a year when Madigan named her to the then-new Illinois post, which is designed to give public officials, media representatives and ordinary citizens a place to get information about the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts.
“I wouldn’t be getting this offer in Pennsylvania if it had not been for her foresight here to create this position,” Mutchler said of Madigan. “It’s really a testament to how she was able to see down the road.”
In Pennsylvania, Gov. ED RENDELL announced Mutchler’s appointment last week. He signed legislation in February to create the Office of Open Records, which will oversee the appeals process for open records requests that are denied by state and local government agencies. It will also provide training for state and local officials.
His office issued a statement saying Mutchler “brings the ideal combination of knowledge and experience” to her new role.
Mutchler, now of Springfield, will be paid $120,000 in the new role, up from $80,000 in her current job.
Mutchler’s reporting experience includes working for the AP in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Alaska in addition to Illinois. She’s a journalism graduate of Penn State University and got her law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
She was the first woman appointed to head the AP Statehouse bureau in Illinois, a post she held in 1993-94.
For people watching the leadup to last week’s Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania, it was obvious that Rendell is a huge supporter of U.S. Sen. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y., for president. And as it turns out, Mutchler supports Clinton as well — even though she says she has the “highest regard” for U.S. Sen. BARACK OBAMA, D-Ill.
While Mutchler says she is “thrilled” at the prospect of a woman on the ticket, the stronger reason for her support of Clinton is the kindness Clinton showed to Mutchler’s partner during treatment for what turned into a fatal illness.
Although it was known by some, it was seldom publicized that Mutchler and the late state Sen. PENNY SEVERNS, D-Decatur, were a gay couple. Severns died of breast cancer at age 46 in 1998, just days after she dropped out of a primary race for secretary of state. She also was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in the 1994 election, when the ticket of former Comptroller DAWN CLARK NETSCH and Severns lost to Republican Gov. JIM EDGAR and Lt. Gov. BOB KUSTRA.
Mutchler served as a spokeswoman for Severns starting in late 1995.
Severns had also been a Democratic National Convention delegate for former President BILL CLINTON in 1992. Mutchler recalled last week that then-first lady Hillary Clinton called on a day when Severns went to get a bone-marrow transplant to fight her cancer.
“Hillary made a point to call her several times and keep in touch,” Mutchler said.
“Those were very dark times, and Hillary’s calls definitely cheered her up,” she said.
Clearly, when she ran statewide, the vast majority of the electorate did not know Severns was gay. She was well-liked in her district and beyond, and a stretch of Interstate 72 between Decatur and Springfield is now named in her honor, as is a state tax checkoff fund to pay for cancer research.
As I talked to Mutchler about her new job, it occurred to me that it would be useful to get on the record the fact that a state senator and major party candidate for lieutenant governor was gay. Maybe it will make people reconsider whether a gay person can win a major race. Maybe some people will lament that Severns didn’t share a significant part of her life with the public.
Mutchler was accommodating in allowing me to say this about something very personal.
“That was a special time in my life,” Mutchler said. “It was an irreplaceable time in my life. And we were very happy.”
Asked if politics played a role in their decision not to be public about their relationship back then, Mutchler said, “Obviously, that played a role.”
“Times were much different,” she said. “But, you know, I think we were just, in some ways, very private people.
“We were both so in love, I think we would have pretty much done anything for each other, and living a private life, at the time, was a small price to pay.”
Lackland to lead minorities organization
JONATHAN LACKLAND, 35, of Springfield is the new executive director of the Illinois Association of Minorities in Government.
It’s been about a year since news broke that the past executive director, ROY WILLIAMS JR., didn’t get his contract renewed.
“I think things are getting back to normalcy,” Lackland said.
Lackland, a Chicago native and 11-year resident of Springfield, said he wants to get the organization on stronger financial footing, in part through increasing membership, which now stands at about 1,100.
While minority employees of state government are now the focus, he’d like to increase membership as well from people who work for municipal government.
The organization wants to be, he said, “in a position where we can make sure that our members have access to promotions, as well as protection against discriminatory activity.” He wants the group to be a resource for government units as well.
Lackland first came to Springfield when he got a job with the Rural Community Assistance Program, an affiliate of the federal agriculture department that worked with local communities on clean-water issues.
While living in Springfield, he became Macon County’s grant coordinator. He later became a special assistant in the Illinois Department of Human Services. Another position was with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, where he lobbied for gun control measures in 13 states.
Lackland also has overseen legislative efforts in states for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and directed state legislative lobbying in Illinois for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.
Lackland and his wife, TAMMY, have a 10-year-old daughter, TYLER, and an 8-month-old son, DOUGLAS.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or email@example.com.