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Frank Watson resigns Senate seat

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

Three months after stepping down as the minority leader in the Illinois Senate, Frank Watson has announced that he will resign from his Senate seat.

Watson, the Greenville pharmacist who has represented this region in the Illinois General Assembly for more than three decades, said Monday that his resignation from the Senate will be effective on Monday, Feb. 16.

Watson cited several reasons for leaving the Senate, among those the need to continue vigorous rehabilitation from a stroke he suffered last October.

Watson, whose tenure in the General Assembly has included more than 25 years as a state senator and the past six as the Senate minority leader, also stated a desire to spend more time with his family.

The stroke that he suffered on Oct. 17, Watson said, was a life-changing and eye-opening experience.

“It was a real shot across the bow,” he said. “You think you’re in good physical shape, then something like this happens,” Watson said.

Since suffering the stroke, Watson has been immersed in rehab. “I’ve really made a lot of progress, but I’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

“My wife has done a fabulous job of keeping me going,” he said.

A long-time pharmacist who sold his Greenville pharmacy in January 2007, Watson, who is 63, now looks forward to time with his wife, their two children and their grandson.

With everything that’s happened in the past few months, Watson is ready to turn the Senate work over to someone else.

“I’ve seen people stay too long (in the legislature). I didn’t want to be that way, and now seemed to be an appropriate time to step aside,” he said.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always been able to go wherever I needed to go, whenever I needed to go,” Watson said. “I can no longer do that, and it’s not fair to the people I represent. It’s the right time.”

Watson’s seat in the Senate will be filled through a vote by the Republican county chairman in the nine counties within the 51st District, with the votes of each chairman weighted by the population of his county. In addition to Fayette, counties that lie either partially or completely within the 51st District boundaries include Bond, Effingham, Clinton, Madison, Christian, Shelby, Moultrie and Macon.

He has taken the time necessary to decide on his future, but Watson has not had the time to assess his career in the state legislature.

“I will be looking back,” Watson said.

“Obviously, (the effort to keep) Vandalia Correctional Center (open) has to come in at the top of the list,” he said. “But, there are a lot of other things that I’m rather proud of.

“I was an original sponsor of the school construction grant program in 1997,” he said. “That was funding that was important to me, because it has served many school districts, including Vandalia, over the years.”

Watson also feels good about his role in welfare reform. “It’s been all about people having some responsibility for their lives, to take care of themselves and let government do its job,” he said.

He also remembers when then-Gov. George Ryan went to Greenville’s industrial park in 1999 to sign the EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy), through which the state could offer tax credits to spur development.

“I was also a sponsor of Bright Start, which helps families to save money for their children’s college education, and College Illinois, which provides prepaid tuition plans,” Watson said.

“Throughout my career, education was important to me, economic development was important to me, welfare reform was important to me … and doing whatever I could to serve the people of my district and the state of Illinois was important to me,” he said.