Political couple leaves legacy in Wilmette
Keats' have seen enough Illinois politics
March 18, 2011 | 11:42 AM
When Roger and Tina Keats drive away from their Sheridan Road home in Wilmette for the last time in a few weeks and head for their new home in Texas, they will be leaving behind a formidable political legacy.
Keats, who served as the Republican state senator for much of the North Shore from 1978 to 1992, worked closely with Harold Washington to enact legislation that adopt judicial sub-circuits for Cook County and cleared the way for minorities and Republicans to hold judgeships.
The reform, fought by many Democrats, was an integral part of the cleanup of corruption in the Cook County court system that was uncovered by Operations Greylord and Gambat.
Keats was also the point man for legislation that reformed the Illinois banking system by creating branch banking, which improved access and lowered costs. In addition, he pushed through legislation that brought the public transit system back from the brink of bankruptcy by requiring that fares cover a minimum percentage of costs.
"I was the last legislator to get the better of Michael Madigan and I did it three times," said Keats, 62. "We formed bipartisan coalitions to get those reforms, something that has not been done since."
After losing to Grace Mary Stern in 1992, Keats continued to run his construction business until 1994, became a manager with J.P. Morgan for 10 years and finally worked for Oppenheimer.
Along the way, Keats was also active in campaigns for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and John McCain, and volunteered in the Chicago area on drug abuse and child sexual abuse issues.
Tina Keats, also 62, moved to Wilmette in 1988. The Harvard MBA graduate sold her baby bedding business in 1994, and got involved in politics in part because she had experienced "how government interference makes it hard for people to run a small business."
She ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1996, then played a key role in Mark Kirk's first Congressional win in 2000 by helping deliver New Trier Township.
"He was behind when we started," Tina said. "We managed through grassroots campaigning to turn it around, and that won him the election."
She was Kirk's campaign manager in 2007.
Tina has also been active in local school board and referenda elections, including work that led to the demise of the Wilmette school caucus in the 1990s.
"What we have done is given voters a choice and we have fought for open government," she said.
They are moving outside Austin, she and Roger said, in part because of the weather and because family is there. But also because they wanted to live in a Red state with lower taxes, a stronger financial future and less corruption.
"This is a wonderful place to live," Roger said. "But I am tired of subsidizing crooks, and I don't want any more of it."
Because of the duo's strong history in state politics, they are in-the-know. And that isn't always a good thing.
"We have the disadvantage of knowing too much," Tina said. "During the last election I would talk to people about the state's pension liability and the budget deficit and they wouldn't know what I was talking about. Where does it stop? I don't know. Even states like California and New York know they have to do something to get their house in order. This state has not accepted that."
Wilmette Beacon - Bahai Temple
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