She's held public office since 2001, working in the General Assembly, then city hall. Now, Susana Mendoza, who fashions herself “a truth teller” to the state's woes wants to bring her experience back to Springfield.
She’s a familiar face and a familiar voice at Chicago’s City Hall as City Clerk since 2011.
“I’m my own person, I’m not beholden to anybody, never have been,” she says.
This is her first run for statewide office as Illinois’ comptroller.
“It’s the most important job that most people have never heard of and it’s because it controls the state’s checkbook,” she says.
Unlike the state treasurer, who invests the state’s money, the comptroller pays the bills. It is a tough job, as the state budget standoff has pushed the backlog of unpaid bills to 10 billion dollars.
Mendoza was born to Mexican immigrants in the Little Village neighborhood and raised in the suburbs.
After college, she moved back to the neighborhood. She first ran for state representative at age 25. She lost. Two years later, she ran again and won, keeping the seat until being elected to the City Clerk's office.
She has kept tabs on aldermen and city licenses including reforming the vehicle sticker program.
“We did so with 10 percent less payroll,” she says. “I did it by coming in under budget.”
Now, with her sights set on statewide office, she says her skills managing the clerk’s office and being a mom will come into play as comptroller, looking for ways to pay the bills, especially to social service agencies in a challenging political climate in Springfield.
Mendoza says she prides herself on being bi-partisan and considers the late Judy Baar Topinka a role model for her ability to reach across the aisle.
Mendoza believes, as comptroller, she could bring her former colleagues in the general assembly together on a budget agreement and start to pay down the bills.