Champaign’s Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen, only the second woman to hold that post, is also a local lawyer with a passion for issues relating to individuals with special needs. Mayor Feinen believes it is her job to talk with everyone, and she works hard to make herself accessible to her constituents. We appreciate Mayor Feinen’s support during her first year in office, it speaks volumes to us!
What are you grateful for today?
My health and my family’s health.
Tell us about one of your friends and what you love about her.
My friend and former law partner, Traci Nally, has run with me 6 days a week for nearly 15 years. In those wee morning hours (5 AM) we share stories, bird watch, work out problems, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. When we first became good friends she was my mentor/boss. I learned to lawyer from her and she taught me the importance of listening rather than speaking. She is an ATHENA and Woman of Distinction award winner. Traci is passionate about our community and is a great advocate for her clients, the underserved, and the people and issues that she cares about. She is adventurous and loves to travel, a passion that we share. It says a lot if you can travel together and still be friends. Always the entrepreneur Traci is currently a co-owner with her family of Urban Gardens an organic local garden. Her passion doesn’t stop there though and she will often talk about the creation of a network of organic local food producers. Traci is loyal and trustworthy and she is family.
Describe one of the best days of your life.
I have to pick Marathon Day. I love the spring and Illinois Marathon has become my marker for the beginning of my favorite part of the year. No matter what race I participate in I feel empowered by the work that has lead up to the event and the excitement of the day itself. I love seeing people I know along the race route (Traci Nally and I even play a game where we try to get people to say hello to us by name and whoever gets the most hellos wins). I also love showing our community off to all the runners who are here for the weekend. After the race we used to participate in the youth run which is a great community event and another opportunity to be with friends and family. My kids are now old enough that they are running the 5K the night before so we miss that event. Finally, we end the day at a party with our friends, some of them runners some of them not, celebrating the start of spring and the accomplishments and hard work of everyone who participates in the day.
What’s the best lesson you learned from your mother/grandmother?
I learned from my Mother to explore the world and not to be afraid. She fearlessly will approach people to talk to them, she will knock on doors in areas that women alone may be afraid to go. When traveling she will wander into areas not on the tour guide maps and will look for native people and the reality of the country that she is in. She is not afraid to get lost and will enjoy the process of finding her way back and meeting new people as she explores her surroundings. She trusts the people around her but also trusts her instincts and seems to have a sixth sense of when to be careful. It was my Mother who taught me all about hard work and politics. At a young age I was checking voter lists, helping address envelopes (remember this as in the days before home computers) and knocking on doors. I never saw our dining room table because it was covered with campaign materials for whoever we were working for at the time. I learned to be independent and self-assured because she took me out to knock on doors and talk to voters about issues. I learned the art of conversation at each front porch I stood on and I learned about our community and the people who live here.
We’re all unique. What is your special gift?
I am a problem solver. I can see different sides of an issue and find ways to encourage people to work together for solutions.
What could women be doing to make their community a better place?
Run for office or serve on governmental boards and commissions.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Get a master’s degree in fine arts specializing in photography or a masters in photojournalism and travel the world as a photojournalist.