Often at the turn of the year, it’s time for a whimsical look ahead, as days get longer and the promise of better times looms.

Often at the turn of the year, it’s time for a whimsical look ahead, as days get longer and the promise of better times looms.

Some of the usual enthusiasm for that approach is under a cloud on the eve of 2011, after the recent, still-baffling death of Springfield Mayor TIM DAVLIN. As many said, the city goes on, work goes on, and life goes on. But having a local leader take his own life remains perplexing.

Still, move on we must, and I hope that doesn’t indicate disrespect to our past mayor.

I was out of town when the Springfield City Council transferred new Mayor FRANK EDWARDS from his Ward 1 aldermanic seat into the ultimate hot seat of Springfield last week. And, like most Springfield residents, I’m sure, I wish him well in keeping things on an even keel for the next few months.

Several years ago — I think when Edwards was still fire chief —I encountered Edwards near Fire Station No. 1. We stood there and talked about city politics for something like 20 minutes. He seemed way more interested in lots of details about city government than many workers might. I was impressed by his knowledge.

Little did I know that sometime soon, he would be running for alderman. Edwards had his differences with Davlin, but in my experience, he did not make it personal. Edwards has always been available and, I’ve gotten the impression, has tried to do the right thing.

I do think Edwards showed a touch of naivete when he spent time seeking the GOP nomination for governor, though I enjoyed snapping a picture of him with the used firetruck he bought to help advertise that effort.  Once he backed away from the statewide quest, he went about his business, considered running for mayor, and ultimately filed for another term as alderman.  

I remember buying concessions from him at an outdoor theater show at the Muni, where he volunteered — just one manifestation of his community involvement. I haven’t been the main person covering city hall for some time, but Edwards always seemed to share his opinions freely, and he doesn’t put on airs.

So, instead of a whole list of new year’s wishes, how about this whimsical one for Edwards: I hope he gets used to wearing suits, like the ones he bought Wednesday, but not too used to it. I don’t think he’ll lose the down-home feel. I’m sure neither he nor anyone else wanted him to become mayor the way he did. But with Edwards’ knowledge of the city and his past career as a first responder and administrator, here’s hoping his new, short-term job fits him as well as the new duds.

Best of luck, Mayor Edwards.

A way out?
A Statehouse lobbyist whose frustration with the system peaked about the time then-Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH started being himself as the new leader of the state has written a novel with Illinois state government as its backdrop and a dream about what might be a way out of the governmental morass.

“E Party: Vol. 1 ‘Starting in the Middle’” is a 333-page, self-published book written by STEVEN NEMEROVSKI, who lobbies on behalf of clients including the Association of Safety-Net Community Hospitals (which he said is a group of fewer than 10 hospitals in Chicago), St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, CVS Caremark Corp. and Chicago-based Harmony Health Plan of Illinois.

The basic idea is that a rich guy living in Colorado wants to create a third party to break up the unworkable status quo, brings together some talented folks and targets Illinois as the place to launch the party through recruiting quality candidates from the ranks of teachers. Big money tossed into the mix (Nemerovski thinks even new campaign finance laws will have loopholes to allow such things, despite their expressed purpose of stopping them) helps make the candidacies viable, and the whole process is done in a way that catches major-party insiders and schemers by surprise.

The Statehouse crowd in the book includes a powerful House speaker — sound familiar? — and the owner and sole staffer of a “must-read daily news bulletin.” Nemerovski agreed that “Nat Carson” is fashioned after Springfield’s own RICH MILLER and his Capitol Fax, though I’m not sure Miller would like to be viewed as that easy to use. In the book, the publication is “The Back Bench,” with the motto, “If you let it slip, we catch it.”

Nemerovski, 59, is an Elmwood Park native who spent many years living in Chicago but moved with his family to Snowmass Village, Colo., more than four years ago. He lobbies only in Illinois, he said, and spends 50 to 60 days a year in Springfield.

“I have a very interesting commute,” he said.

Nemerovski is a lawyer and was parliamentarian of the House during the reign of then-Speaker Lee Daniels, R-Elmhurst, in the mid-1990s.

Some of his plot lines are far beyond belief, including a package of reforms that included limiting most state employees to 10 years on the job. And while some characters were interesting, I had a bit of trouble following who was who, particularly early on. The inclusion of a lot of communication in the form of raw e-mails added to the choppiness.

But you have to give Nemerovski credit for making the effort, which he said involved about five years of work, often in the pre-sunup hours. He also envisions telling his full story in about four volumes, and he’s working on No. 2. He said the current book has sold something more than 300 copies.

“E,” by the way, stands for education, ethics, economy, environment — some of the critical issues of the day.

“I did it because I was living through the dysfunction of politics in Illinois,” Nemerovski said. “Once Blagojevich came in, I just became very intrigued by the notion of what it would take to get us out of this dysfunction and get politics working again.”

He thinks a real third party that would have enough power to force others to compromise is the answer. Hey, somebody’s got to have one.

The paperback is $14.99 and the hardback $23.99. More information is available at www.epartynovel.com.

In the pressroom
A couple of people have returned to the Statehouse pressroom in new roles.

NICOLE WILSON, 34, is the new Statehouse bureau chief for MetroSource News, a radio network that serves stations across the Midwest, including WFMB-AM in Springfield.

A Joliet native, Wilson has a broadcast communications degree from Illinois State University and in 2008 got a public affair’s reporting master’s from the University of Illinois Springfield. She did an internship with WICS-TV in Springfield as part of that master’s program.

“I love being in the Capitol because I love politics,” she said. “My biggest thing is having an opportunity to translate legislative terms into language that the normal person can understand.”
She’s done work for MetroSource before, including commuting to Chicago to do traffic and news reports for markets including Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Chicago.

And in a twist that someone like me could easily have some fun with, she also worked as a production assistant at WGN-TV in Chicago after graduating from ISU in 1998 — and worked there on the last season of the “Bozo” show.

Welcome back, one might say.

Wilson took the place of STEVE BUTERA, who is now assignment editor at WICS.

Meanwhile, DREW THOMASON, 24, has joined the staff of Illinois Statehouse News. A native of Gibson City, he has a journalism degree from Western Illinois University. When he got his master’s in public affairs reporting at UIS in 2009, his Statehouse internship was with GateHouse Media.

He most recently was a reporter at the Daily News in Bowling Green, Ky.
“I love my job,” he said. “I love covering Illinois politics. It’s a blast.”

Another benefit of the move is that his fiance, JAMEY DUNN, a UIS classmate, covers the Statehouse for Illinois Issues magazine. A September wedding is planned. Congrats to all.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com.