Representative-Elect Hultgren a Political Lifer
The west-suburban native's family business and own leadership skills formed the foundation for his run up the government ladder.
Joanne Hultgren is not shocked that her son Randy will soon be a U.S. Congressman.
"He's been running campaigns his whole life," she said, remembering his very first campaign slogan in elementary school: "Randy is a dandy."
Hultgren, a Republican state senator since 2007 and state congressman since 1999, unofficially beat Democratic incumbent Bill Foster by more than 6 percent on Nov. 2 in the culmination of the race to represent Illinois' 14th Congressional District. He carried most of St. Charles, where he based his campaign, and beat Foster by more than 10 percent in Kane County.
In February's Republican primary, Hultgren beat Ethan Hastert, the son of former U.S. Speaker and 14th District Representative Dennis Hastert.
Only a small, western section of Hultgren's hometown of Wheaton falls within his new constituency and it seems that reality cost him an even larger margin of victory.
"We all campaigned for him but we couldn't vote for him," said Scott Macy, one of four funeral directors at Hultgren Funeral Home. Another of those directors is former owner Vern Hultgren, who moved his wife, Joanne, and three kids—Tim, Tami and Randy—to Wheaton from Park Ridge in 1977.
"As honest as the day is long," Rev. Don Jones said of the Hultgrens. The recently retired senior campus chaplain at Windsor Park Manor retirement community in Carol Stream has presided over hundreds of services in cooperation with the Hultgrens. "I've observed them in all types of situations. I just had the highest regard for them as people and professionals in their business."
For eight years, they lived above the funeral home, where Randy and his siblings worked for their parents as youths and learned all about that "work ethic" and "emphasis on family."
"The commitment to the community and the business was something we all took seriously," Randy said. "We saw the vision my parents had by helping people during their hardest time."
Vern is now semi-retired. He sold Hultgren Funeral Home to Tim more than 10 years ago. The business handles about 250 funerals each year.
"Everyone essentially gets to know who you are because they come through the doors," Tim said. "We're people-oriented here. The family you're serving, you connect with them in a way unlike anyone else."
But according to Joanne, the funeral business wasn't for Randy.
"He was more into other things," his mother said, listing drama, music, and sports as some of her youngest son's interests. "And he was the president of any classroom he was in."
It was in eighth grade, though, that Randy first became truly interested in politics. He participated in the model congress of a government class he took.
"I really enjoyed the process of it," he said.
After serving his respective student bodies at Wheaton Academy and Bethel College in St. Paul, MN, Randy said he began considering politics as a career, though he wondered whether it was a realistic option.
"I didn't know if the opportunity would come up," he said. "But if it did, I was interested."
The opportunity has come, and Randy is poised to make things happen.
"I want to go out there and hit the ground running, and get my voice heard," Randy said. "I've heard that a freshman congressman should just be quiet for the first six months. I'm not going to do that. I'm going to be a squeaky wheel—a loud voice for my constituents."
Extending the Bush-era tax cuts across the board is the Representative-elect's first political priority.
"We need to create jobs; we cannot raise taxes," he said. Congress is expected to debate the tax cuts during the lame-duck session that will last from now until mid-January. "If they, for whatever reason, fail to [extend the cuts], we'll need to get those back."
Aside from Washington politics, Randy's priority is getting better acquainted with the residents he now represents.
"Before I get sworn in, I'll continue to be around district—being with people, listening to people, and building a coalition of people to help make big decisions," the Winfield resident said. "I want to tap in to the expertise of people of the 14th district."