Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

Flick: The sudden senator, Sally Turner

  • 0
053021-blm-loc-flickcolumn-sally turner 2021 new IL senators.jpg

​Sally Turner, front row, second from right, with the 10 other new, post-election Illinois State Senators of 2021. But none ascended quite the way of Sally.

Remember that first day at a new job?

While everyone else knows where they’re going, you’re just trying to figure out the location of the restrooms and where you sit.

Or, that first weekend at college before classes start, you’re out walking campus, trying to learn the whereabouts of your classes, wondering how you’re ever going to get from the science lab to the applied arts building in only 10 minutes.

Yup, meet Sally Turner.

She is your new Illinois state senator.

Some spend months, years, a chunk of life, preparing for such.

Sally did it in about a week or four.

Some make labored plans with measured study to orchestrate l-o-n-g campaigns to woo the voting public.

What Sally did, after thought, was call her daughter, Morgan, in Chicago to see if she planned to make her a grandmother in the next 2½ years.

And, just like that, Sally Turner — lifelong Central Illinoisan, longtime public servant and friendly face, former doubles tennis standout at Mount Pulaski High and these days a Republican from Beason — has attached “state senator” to the front part of her name.

053021-blm-loc-flickcolumn-sally turner.jpg

Illinois State Sen. Sally Turner

“It was like the day before college,” she says with a laugh. “Day before I started, (Illinois State Rep.) Tim Butler (of Springfield) — he’s just the nicest guy — drove me around the Capitol to show me the places I needed to know. But next day, I realized it was such a crash course, I’d forgotten much of what Tim had told me.”

She laughs again.

“Here I was having to ask a Capitol tour guide how to get where I wanted to go.”

As the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly winds down, “Sally Turner Goes to the Illinois State Senate” is surely one of the year’s best and most unexpected stories.

And we’re talking especially for her.

At Christmas — age 59, amid her second year of retirement, after 24 years as Logan County clerk and before that, a near-dozen as a juvenile probation officer — she was enjoying a quiet holiday season, helping out her folks, Pat and Wayne Tetley, in neighboring Mount Pulaski, being festive with family and husband John (by day, he is 4th District Appellate Justice John Turner), trying to at least stay a little busy by launching a consulting business to help out towns and local governments with property tax issues.

A few days later, on New Year's Eve, in a surprise announcement, Republican State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, a 27-year veteran among Springfield politicos, announced he was stepping aside to more pursue his family’s business endeavors.

“I said to John at dinner, ‘Did you see Bill Brady is retiring?’ We both were surprised. But that was pretty much it,” says Sally.

A week passed.

Flick: If you’re not quite (n)ormal yet?

That’s when good friends of the Turners and longtime Logan County Republican Party notables David and Carla Bender made a suggestion.

“You should seek that seat!”

“Me?” queried Sally.

Rome wasn’t built in a day; it took God nearly a week to construct a universe; and Sally Turner now stands at a record senatorial pace as well.

Turning in her name in a sprawling district that encompasses chunks of Bloomington-Normal and McLean County as well as parts of Logan, Tazewell, Sangamon and Menard counties, she ascended.

“As part of the selection committee that reviewed and interviewed nine applicants,” says Connie Beard, Republican chairman in McLean County, “all had strong resumes. But Sally Turner quickly moved to the top for stepping into the role. She has a manner that speaks to her leadership (and) also to her heart of service. Voters will find her very approachable. She has accomplished so much in her years of public service.”

And so now, Sally Turner, devoted retired American, is more devoted and also not retired anymore, either.

Loungeabout the Roundeabout is the first of many summer events returning to Bloomington-Normal. Performances features local artists across a variety of genres each Wednesday and Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. May through September in uptown Normal.

“I think she’ll be great,” says Bill Brady.

Within a week, she was hiring staff, even if — think about this — she didn’t exactly know what a staff did.

Since then, she has been speed-learning the inner workings of state government and, in between, driving about her rambling district to meet the 217,468 residents she represents.

“I realize I am still naïve enough to think government should work for the betterment of ALL people and it shouldn’t really matter what side of an aisle a good idea comes from,” she says. “But it doesn’t always work that way.”

One of the more bizarre parts of being an Illinois legislator in times of COVID?

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in the Stratton Building next to the Capitol, she’s spitting into a test tube.

“Even if we’ve all had our shots and wearing masks, we spit into a tube," she says. "As you do that week after week, you think about the expense of that — those tests are expensive.”

We’re reminded of late great Beatle John Lennon who once said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”

Yup. Meet Sally Turner.

Bill Flick is at


Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

"On Mother's Day. It was 1981. Having gone back home to help celebrate my mother’s birthday, I asked if there was something special she wanted to do, and she said, 'There’s a new movie out, ‘On Golden Pond...' So what the heck, I took my mom to a movie."

At age 43, in his 10th year of Congress, 18 years after being one of the youngest-ever elected members of the McLean County Board, a 2000 graduate of Illinois State University and before that, Normal West, by 2021 Adam Kinzinger has become Mr. Everywhere on the TV news dial.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News