hellos 011921 2As the new session begins, the Senate is pleased to welcome four new members to the body. They bring a range of professional and personal experience as well as valuable subject matter knowledge, and we can’t wait to see what they will contribute to our work for the people of Illinois.

New State Senator for the 43rd District John Connor joins the Senate after serving three years as Representative for the 85th District. Born and raised in Joliet, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the University of Illinois.

Connor spent nearly 20 years as a criminal prosecutor at the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office. He helped launch the Major Crimes Prosecution Unit and was also chief of the High Tech Crime Unit.

Connor instituted and ran the special grand jury for the Drew Peterson case, securing the indictment that successfully led to Peterson’s conviction.

He and his wife live in Lockport and have three sons.

Meg Loughran Cappel is the new State Senator for the 49th District. Cappel grew up in Joliet and became a special education teacher. She then became a union representative for AFT-IFT Local 604 at her school. That led to her election to the Joliet Township High School Board, working to improve equity, safety and technical programs for the District.

Cappel has been a community volunteer with parent/faculty groups, a cheer coach and is a member of the Shorewood Chamber of Commerce. She is an Illinois Association of School Boards Delegate. She is a mother of three and caregiver to her elderly father. She and her husband – also a teacher – know the importance of the Illinois pension system and its stability. A new voice in the pension debate will be welcome.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, who served as the associate vice president of policy at the Erikson Institute until this week, is the new Senator for the 20th District in Chicago. Pacione-Zayas holds a doctorate in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is secretary of the board for the Illinois State Board of Education. She is a former education director for the Latino Policy Forum and a culture of calm coordinator for Chicago Public Schools.

With Dr. Pacione-Zayas’s leadership, the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago launched the 3 R’s (Rescue, Relief, and Rebuild) Campaign that provided aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and then the earthquakes that devastated the island. Dr. Pacione-Zayas has become the only Puerto Rican political commentator on WGN.

She replaces Iris Martinez, who became the first Latina elected to the clerk of the circuit courts.

Karina Villa comes to the Senate’s 25th District from the House of Representatives. Born and raised in West Chicago, she earned her master’s degree in social work from Aurora University and became a school social worker in the West Chicago and Villa Park school systems. She has also served on the West Chicago District 33 Board of Education since 2013. Her knowledge and leadership brought improved programming, and her work helped the board maintaining a balanced budget.

Villa and her brother are children of immigrant parents who are small business owners. Their family grocery store was a hub for community assistance and advice. Now her community building skills and professional background give her the ability to find common ground with those who have different points of view, and to build relationships on that ground.

Representing her strengths, these are committees she served on in the House: Appropriations - Elementary and Secondary Education; Elementary and Secondary Education: School Curriculum Policies; Health Care Availability and Access; Labor and Commerce; Mental Health; Veterans' Affairs; Workforce Development Subcommittee; Special Issues Subcommittee (ESS).