PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After nearly a decade, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) is moving away from Congress.
While she said she’s not “retiring,” she now is moving into her next career phase.
Rep. Bustos, representing Illinois’ 17th Congressional District since 2013, now hands the reigns over to Congressman-Elect Eric Sorensen. Sorensen is a former TV meteorologist who has a passion for communicating the impacts of climate change.
WMBD’s Matt Sheehan sat down with Rep. Bustos Friday morning in the WMBD studios, where they discuss her career.
MS: You led central Illinois for five terms in Congress, representing many of our viewers. Looking back at your time at the Capitol, what are some of your fondest memories?
CB: Number one, we were determined to be the best office of all Democrats in the House or Senate at constituent services. If you’re a member of Congress, you’re number one job is making sure you are listening, responding, and voting the right way. Taking care of the people who need you from a federal government perspective. The other area I’m very proud is, we were the #1 Democrat in all of the House for bringing home resources for community project funding. Why that’s important is, we used to seed these decisions to the White House up until the last 2 years. I’m on Appropriations and we made that change through the Appropriations process. Now members of Congress can say ‘this is how we should be spending tax dollars.’ We don’t think that someone in Washington, D.C. who knows little about Peoria, Rock Island or Rockford or Canton, should be making those decisions. The reason that’s significant is because we can do things like get $1 million to tear down the Harrison School. We will know within a week or two, we’ve put in to get $2 million to put sidewalks in the 61605 so people can get to and from in a way that’s a lot easier. I’m very proud that nobody brought home more resources than we did in the House.
MS: I’m sure it was no easy task deciding to step away. Talk about what drove you to this decision.
CB: It was a number of things. First of all, I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I never planned to be out in Washington, D.C. when I was 70, 80 or 90 as some people do. I also, on a personal level, do a personal dive on my life every 10 years. Something I’ve done since I was 20. I took a look at my life from a personal level and a professional level, and made a determination that I’ve got another career or two in me. I can make a difference in new ways.
MS: Now Eric Sorensen is taking your place in Congress. What’s some advice you could share with him?
CB: The job is here at home. It’s with the 700,000 plus people who live in each of our Congressional districts. The people here are the bosses of the members of Congress. My boss was never the Speaker of the House or the President of the United States. It’s not my colleagues, they can’t tell me what to do. It is the people here who you have to listen to. They should guide what you do when you go back to Washington.
MS: Your time in the U.S. House is coming to a close in early January. What are your plans after you step away?
CB: I’m trying to piece that all together. I don’t have any major announcement to make today, but my plan is that I want to make sure I’m doing something where I can continue to make a difference. It’ll be just in a different way, but that’s been important to me throughout my entire career. As a journalist for 17 years, I’m sure you feel similarly, you can watch into your newsroom every single day. You’re always in a position to make a difference. You can expose wrongdoing, you can talk about people who have done great things in the community. It was always a way I thought you could make a difference. Then I worked in healthcare for 10 years. Again, a different way, but another way to make a difference for me. Now in Congress for the last decade. I hope, in the end, I’ve made things better for a lot of people. That’s a long way of saying…. I’ll be doing a combination of things. I’m still piecing that together, we’ll keep you posted!