CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – “Scott always saw this role as a team effort, and I felt that this was a good way to end it. As a team,” Dr. Stacy Bennett said. After an intimate appointment ceremony Thursday afternoon, the role of 52nd District senator now belongs to her. Her husband, Senator Scott Bennett, died unexpectedly from a brain tumor on December 9.
Filling the vacancy is more than a symbolic gesture. While she said it’s about carrying on her husband’s legacy, it’s not Stacy Bennett’s first political role. She has a doctorate in education policy and leadership, but her experience goes back to interning at the White House in 1999 – where she first met Scott Bennett.
“For this appointment and the next appointment, no one will be able to fill the shoes of Scott Bennett,” Champaign County Chair Mike Ingram said during the meeting.
However, he and other county leaders have chosen one person they believe is the closest fit.
“Initially, I was like, ‘no way.’ Then the more I thought about it, it just felt right to do,” Stacy Bennett said.
Only one day after deciding to step in, she was appointed to serve the remainder of her husband’s term in the 102nd General Assembly – with no objections.
“This is not my comfort zone. I’m kind-of behind the scenes, usually. But I felt that this was important,” Bennett said.
Her family – along with the rest of the 52nd Legislative District – was blindsided when Senator Scott Bennett died at age 45. She describes the two weeks since that day as “complete chaos.”
“It was all so sudden and such a shock,” she said. “With his role, that just adds a whole other layer of things that need to be done and taken care of.”
When she’s not tying up loose political ends, Stacy Bennett is caring for her children. Luckily, she’s getting a lot of support from the community – one that’s surrounded her.
“People were there the day he passed away to decorate our house for Christmas,” she said. “Things like that that give us a little bit of normalcy. I haven’t had to cook in two weeks.”
When it comes time to vote in the lame duck session, Bennett hasn’t decided what she’ll do yet.
“I’m just right now focusing on the holidays and trying to give my kids some sort of Christmas. Then we’ll start thinking of more of that later,” Bennett said.
For now, she moves forward by remembering how much her husband loved to serve Champaign and Vermilion counties.
“I mean, it was a very demanding job and I would get frustrated with how much he was gone, but I couldn’t deny what an impact he was having,” she said.
Even though he’s gone, Bennett said there’s still a lot to learn from her late husband.
“I just hope moving forward that people continue his legacy as well of compromise and kindness and trying to rise above the partisanship, and the name calling and everything,” she said. “That’s what he did and that’s what he believed in. I just hope that continues.”
Senator Stacy Bennett will serve until January 11. After that, Champaign County democrats say they’ll be releasing more information about filling the two-year term seat.