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Kadner: State Rep. Renee Kosel to retire in 2015

State Reps. Raymond Poe Renee Kosel

State Reps. Raymond Poe and Renee Kosel

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Updated: November 4, 2013 12:12PM



State Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox), who successfully fought for Homer Glen’s right to join forces with other municipalities to form their own water company, has announced she is planning to retire in 2015.

Kosel, 70, has served in the Illinois House since 1997, sometimes fending off Republican challengers who thought her too liberal and often Democratic candidates who criticized her for being too conservative.

Republicans have been in the minority in the House throughout her career, but she still managed to bring money to her district for the widening of U.S. 30, the widening of Interstate 80, the extension of Interstate 355 to I-80, the expansion of the I-80/LaGrange Road interchange and “school construction projects in every school district within the borders of my House district,” Kosel said.

I recall Kosel, who had been an abortion opponent, taking a courageous stand in Springfield that eventually fueled a scathing assault on her character by anti-abortion advocates in her party.

Legislation was proposed to take away a parent’s power to have a “do not resuscitate” order placed on their children in hospitals. Kosel made an impassioned statement before a House committee in opposition to the law.

She had a very personal reason for doing that, although she didn’t seek publicity about it at the time. A grandson had been born with a heart defect.

“There were veins missing, ventricles upside down, it was just a mess,” Kosel said Wednesday when I asked her to recall the controversial position she took in Springfield.

“He lived for 18 months, the last five months in an intensive care unit,” she said. “It was a terribly stressful time for my daughter and son-in-law, and they faced some very difficult decisions.

“They made the decision to place a DNR order on Tyler (their son). It wasn’t easy. And I saw what they went through.”

So when the anti-abortion bill came up in the House taking that right away from parents, a position championed by conservative Republicans throughout the country at the time, Kosel was vocal in her opposition.

The bill was eventually amended to restore a parent’s right to have a say in the decision-making, and Kosel voted for it.

“But that fight ended up costing me $50,000 to $60,000 to fend off the primary challenge,” she said. “I don’t regret it. In fact, I’m proud of the position I took.

“Parents, in that sort of situation, have to be able to consult with a doctor and have the final say in what happens to their child. You can’t take that out of the hands of the parents.”

Kosel said she will not attempt to choose a successor as state representative.

“It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing that I will not seek another term as your state representative,” Kosel said in a news release. “I will complete my current term that ends in January of 2015 and I will let the political process determine my successor.”

Kosel told me she began thinking about retirement after Bill Daley announced he would not seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

“I heard him explain that he was quitting the race because he started asking himself if this was something that he wanted to do for the next four or eight years of his life,” Kosel said.

She didn’t immediately arrive at a decision, but in the following weeks had an epiphany of sorts when a close friend developed a serious health problem and another, much younger person told her his wife had died.

“You realize that your time is short, and maybe there are other things you want to do,” Kosel said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit home all the time and babysit the grandkids. But I would like to travel with Al (her husband), donate some of my time to local causes, and, sure, spend time doing fun stuff with my children and grandchildren.”

Kosel was adamant that she has no plans to become a lobbyist, the retirement choice of many former state legislators.

Kosel is the longest-serving state legislator from the southwest suburbs and will have served 18 years in the House when her term expires. She was assistant House minority leader during the last legislative session.

“This state is in terrible, terrible financial shape,” she said. “No doubt about that. We have to get pension costs under control.

“And I know people blame us for that. I’ve heard people say, ‘You people who have been down there all this time are responsible for this mess.’ Well, you know, you don’t win every battle you fight. It’s as frustrating for those of us who have been there as it is for you. We didn’t all vote for this stuff.

“But part of the job of a legislator is to keep on fighting, even when you lose. I tried to never take credit for doing anything on my own because you need the help of other people to get things done in the Legislature.

“But I’ve always wanted to make this state a better place for my children, grandchildren and the people I represent. I still do. I want people to be able to say they’re proud of Illinois. I want my children and grandchildren to say that.

“So, over the next 13 or 15 months that I have left I will do my best to serve this state and find solutions. And I would encourage people to get involved in public service. You can do something. You can make a difference, even if you are in the minority.”

Kosel’s battles with Illinois American Water on behalf of residents in Homer Glen is proof of that.

“I have known Renee since she was first elected to office,” Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said. “She has always been responsive to residents. The thing I liked most about her is that she was always very candid in her thoughts and responses. You knew where she stood on issues.”

Kosel was simply honest with people. And that’s a rare thing.



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