Katie Blakeman is the “accidental” candidate. The former University of Illinois fundraiser found herself as the Republican nominee for the Champaign County Circuit Clerk after a series of events led to an appointment process, where Blakeman received the party’s support (the News-Gazette story link). A Champaign native, Blakeman has held leadership positions in the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana as well as the Urban League. Katie is married to T.J. Blakeman, a city planner for the City of Champaign who is also executive director of business for the Champaign Center Partnership, and they are parents of 1-year-old Mary Ella.
See why we think Katie Blakeman is a Chambana mom to know.
Q: You entered the race in an unconventional manner. Why should we vote for you? (Come November, she will be on the ballot facing Democrat Barbara Wysocki, a former Champaign County Board member.)
My interest in this position began by reading the job description for the Circuit Clerk’s office, and realizing that I have the education and professional background to run an exceptional office. My campaign is centered entirely on my qualifications for the job, and the areas I would like to focus on once elected. While an appointment process is certainly an unconventional way to enter the race, I think that voters should be reassured that the precinct committeemen who chose me took their responsibility very seriously. They reviewed each candidate very carefully, and I was honored to have been chosen.
This year, I think it is going to be particularly important for voters to choose a candidate with a strong technological background. The Illinois Supreme Court is in the process of reviewing three major changes to the legal system, including electronic filing, electronic judges’ signatures, and electronic ticketing. It is fully expected that all three of these will soon be a reality. When that happens I want to make sure Champaign County is ready for such sweeping changes on day one. Champaign County can be a regional and state leader in this area and having a Circuit Clerk who understands the impact of technology on the office will be critical. With my graduate degree in Library and Information Science, and my professional experience in digital project management and database creation, I am well prepared to make Champaign County a leader in implementation.
With that said, I always encourage voters to seek opportunities to meet candidates in person. Particularly in a local race, I think it is important to get to know the people who will be representing you. I like to think of voters as hiring managers, and I encourage them to interview me – after all, I would be working for you! That is why I have been holding a series of town hall meetings around the County and knocking on thousands of doors – I’m looking for ways to give voters the chance to do just that.
While it is true that I have never run for office before, I have been a passionate volunteer, and have been working on various campaigns since I was in college. I have never been particularly interested in running for legislative office, but I love Champaign County, and I have always said that if I could run for a local office for which I am well suited, I would do so in a heartbeat. I am starting now because it is simply the right office at the right time. In an office like the Circuit Clerk’s, I believe it is far more important for the elected official to have the qualifications for the job itself, particularly since it employs such a large number of County employees. It is truly a full-time job, and it requires professional experience in budgeting, personnel management, and customer service.
Q: How has motherhood influenced your passion for this position?
I think that having a daughter has made me even more motivated to set an example for young women looking to enter public service. If you look at our local elected offices, there are still not many women seeking public office, and even fewer women with young children. Interestingly, when I was looking for an infant t-shirt that said “Vote for My Mommy”, I couldn’t find one. You can find a “Vote for My Daddy” infant or child shirt, or even a “Vote for My Mom” adult t-shirt, but not an infant or child shirt that says “Vote for My Mommy”. It may be a small thing, but it really frustrated me. That tells me that our society (or at least the people who make t-shirts), think that women should wait until their children are out of the nest to run for office. I respectfully disagree. No one would question a man with young children running for office, and I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do the same. I hope that my daughter will be proud of me someday, and I hope it encourages her to be brave and seek opportunities that may not always be conventional.
Q: Happy birthday to your daughter – what can you share about your 1-year-old?
Thank you! Mary Ella is an incredibly social baby, and it is just so funny to watch her interact with people when we are out and about. She has started waving and blowing kisses from her wagon in parades, which is very charming. I have been teaching her baby signs lately, and I’m amazed at how quickly she is picking them up. She has even begun to sign small sentences, like “Milk please”, “More please”, and “Eat please”. She has a great sense of humor and even made up her own sign for “funny”, which she uses as a sort of inside joke. She learned to walk about a month ago, so our lives have changed again as we figure out how to baby proof things she couldn’t reach when she was only crawling. I find myself just marveling at how quickly she is changing every single day, and I am so happy that we have been able to spend so much time together this summer.
Q: What do you remember from your childhood that you wish we still had in Champaign-Urbana?
With the recent revitalization of Downtown Champaign, I am even more proud to be a Champaign native. My husband is a city planner for the City of Champaign, and has been integral part of redevelopment efforts. However, we also share a certain nostalgia for the old Champaign, and I wish that Vriners had been able to stay open longer. I would have loved to take my daughter for an ice cream soda. I also miss Robeson’s Department Store, though it’s probably because my brother and I got to be models in their Easter Fashion Show as kids. I also really miss having the 4th of July fireworks at Memorial Stadium. It somehow made the fireworks seem so much more important and exciting.
Q: What do you feel is your biggest challenge right now as a mother?
I would say sleep deprivation, but you tend to get used to that after a while. I think that most of my challenges are similar to those of any busy mom. Since I am both a stay at home mom and a full-time candidate, I am always striving to be great at both things simultaneously, and sometimes that proves to be difficult. There are certainly days when the thought of going to the grocery store by myself with a latte sounds like a vacation, but I would say that’s true of most moms I know. However, I am very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive partner in my husband, as well as family in town who are always willing to watch Mary Ella when I have meetings and events. I am enjoying every minute of running a campaign, and I feel very blessed that I get to do it with my daughter.
Katie Blakeman was nominated to be a Chambana Mom to Know. Send us your nominations today!