MURPHYSBORO — Republican Rep. Terri Bryant earned 12 days seniority over the majority of the incoming freshman class on Friday as she took the oath of office for the 115th Illinois House District.
Republican Mike Bost stepped down early from the seat he held for two decades as he prepares to be sworn in as the next congressman to represent Illinois' 12th district in D.C. on Tuesday.
Bryant and Bost, who defeated Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, are both of Murphysboro.
“It’s the culmination of a lifelong dream for me personally and for my family,” Bryant said shortly after she officially became a state representative. “I believe that government can be done in an honest and decent way with a servant’s heart. So to be able to actually represent the place where I live, and be able to go and do this, is very exciting.”
Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier, of the 5th Judicial District covering 37 Southern Illinois counties, administered the oath of office.
“The need for such leadership has never been greater in Illinois,” Karmeier said. “As you begin your career in the legislature, the challenges facing our state are as serious as they have been at any time in history. I don’t envy you for the job you have. The path will certainly be difficult and frustrating, but I urge you to remember, and not become discouraged.”
Karmeier also mentioned Bryant’s tough race that ended on Nov. 4, when she defeated former Jackson County Sheriff Bill Kilquist, a Democrat.
The justice also poked fun at his own contentious battle to win retention after a handful of plaintiffs’ lawyers and law firms funneled more than $2 million into an effort to unseat him in the final weeks leading up to the election.
“Ours was not that bad. It was only two weeks long,” Karmeier said as the packed crowd broke into laughter.
Bryant was sworn in early by vote of the Republican Party chairmen in the counties that make up the 115th legislative district — parts or all of Jackson, Perry, Jefferson, Washington and Union.
The small leg up in seniority could affect things such as license plate numbers and office space. Down the road, it could put her in contention for a committee leadership position ahead of other freshmen scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 14.
Bryant, a longtime employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections, said she’s been a political junkie since at least age 5.
“I was sort of a quirky little kid watching Walter Cronkite in my grandpa’s living room,” she said. “To kind of follow that through my entire life, and have this come open, and go and serve people in the very thing I love most, is very exciting.”
In true Murphysboro fashion, supporters gathered after the swearing in at 17th Street Bar and Grill to celebrate.