In honor of Women’s History month we celebrate the much
beloved Judy Baar Topinka.
Judy Barr Topinka's passion for representing the people of Illinois began in 1980 in the House of Representatives. She served 2 years in the House and then was elected to the State Senate where she remained for 10 years. After 14 years as a member of the Illinois General Assembly, Judy Baar Topinka ran for statewide office. She was chosen in November of 1994 to serve as Illinois State Treasurer becoming the first woman in Illinois history to be elected to that office.
Judy was outspoken in her beliefs and worked across the aisle to accomplish her goals. A fiscal conservative, Judy believed in open and transparent government, which was the hallmark of her tenure. She also believed in helping women to succeed in whatever endeavor they chose. As Illinois State Treasurer, Judy introduced "Smart Women Smart Money," an educational seminar for women about financial matters and "Cash Dash", a computerized program to return “lost” money to the public.
In 2002 Judy was named the head of the Republican Party in Illinois, another first for a woman. She held that post until 2005. Judy Baar Topinka accepted the nomination of the Republican Party in 2006 for Governor of Illinois, running as the first Republican woman to be nominated for this position. She eventually lost the election to now disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Oh, how our state would have been different if Judy had won! Then in 2010, Judy returned to statewide office winning the position of Illinois Comptroller. And in keeping with her belief in government transparency and accountability published the state’s cash flow situation in the online report "Monthly Money Matters". Those who knew Judy often described her as an “original.” She brought color, humor and kindness to the often humorless and unfriendly state government. She instituted one of the most beloved statehouse traditions; Cheesecake Day; when she would open the doors to her office and set out an endless supply of cheesecake for everyone – Republicans, Democrats and anyone in between – to take a five-minute break from partisan battles and enjoy a dessert together. This tradition continues on even today! She once said she would happily dance a polka with anyone who asked.
In addition to her accordion playing skills, Judy is also known for her compassion for animals, especially dogs. While Comptroller she started an online pet adoption portal to help connect people to animals needing homes. Judy had strong convictions and didn’t hold back. She was quoted as saying “I am a tolerant person who believes in keeping government out of people’s lives.” Another quote Judy was famous for was, “When women work we win.” How right she was! Judy believed that by running for office, even when conventional wisdom told her she couldn’t win, she could open the door for other women through her own success.