There is no such thing as a typical day at the office for Tiffany White who serves as State Representative Mike Unes’ Chief of Staff. She works out of his Pekin office at 19 South Capitol St.
When she was in college she did not think this would be her future career. White was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois and was enrolled in political science classes.
“Then the 2008 Presidential election happened and it was a really interesting time,” she said. “I was really captivated by it. After my third year at U of I, I got an internship at Ray LaHood’s office. My dad got sick and died that year and I had the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) coming, but that got put on hold. Aaron Schock was running and I got a job with him thinking it’d be about a year and then I’d go back to law school. I never went back. I stayed with his office for five years. It was satisfying me. I planted my roots.”
She then accepted the position as the Pekin Main Street Director a week before the birth of her first child. She said it was a good fit for her at the time and crossed paths with Unes around the time he had someone leave the office.
“I was at the right place at the right time,” White said. “That was about three years ago. Doing this is where I belong.”
The Pekin satellite office serves as the legislative office. While she is there White facilitates his connection to the 91st District he represents. She described it as “a very active District office” which she likes because communicating is important and central to her job.
“This is the place constituents come or contact us,” said White. “There is a good opportunity to inform people because sometimes people are creating opinions on misinformation. I’m able to have that human conversation rather than a recording. We get a lot of calls.”
One thing that they hear about often is state agencies. White said she and Kristina Joseph who works as a legislative aide and has been there two years always try to be the advocate for the constituent. She said taking time to understand the issue is important.
Another responsibility of her job is to help Unes craft the legislation he introduces every year in Springfield. In order to do so, she consults with their legal staff in Springfield. Many of the ideas for legislation comes from constituents in the 91st District. White helps to keep it all organized.
One issue that was brought to White’s attention that she passed along to Unes had to do with a military family. A woman named Kylie Riney became a widow when her husband Sgt. Douglas Riney was killed in action. Kylie and her children were living in Texas at the time and needed to get out of her lease to move back to Illinois. However, the landlord required her to pay penalties for ending her lease early.
“We wanted to protect Illinois families so this doesn’t happen,” said White.
In mid-April the Illinois House of Representatives approved the legislation sponsored by Unes, House Bill 4317, that will allow families to end their lease without a penalty when their loved one is killed in action.
White also attends meetings on Unes’ behalf. There is an economic development group in Canton that meets on a regular basis. White attends because she is familiar with Unes’ position on issues and reports back to him to keep him abreast of updates and concerns.
White is active in the community which she feels is beneficial in her line of work. She serves on the Pekin Main Street Board of Directors, Tazwood Center for Wellness Board of Directors, is the Chairwoman of the Community Relations Board at the Federal Correctional Institution, Pekin and is also involved in her church as a member of the Evangelism Board of Directors for membership and education.
“Being tapped into the mental health community’s struggles and successes is helpful,” said White. “It comes up at the state level all the time. It’s good to understand those things by being involved with an agency.”
Juggling normal business hours of 8:30-4:30 with all the responsibilities that come with the job can be tricky. Add in a husband and two young daughters with after-hours meetings and being organized comes in quite handy.
Everyone in the house is up by 6 a.m. While her husband, Ben, gets ready for work she gets the girls ready. Then he takes the girls where they need to go and Tiffany gets ready for work and is out the door by 8 a.m.
The first thing she does when she gets to the office is read the newspapers. She reads both the Pekin Daily Times and the Peoria Journal Star. Then she goes online to find out what issues people are talking about that day. After that she reads an Illinois politics blog. All that takes about an hour.
The next hour is typically spent answering emails. She sifts through what Unes needs to see and what she can handle herself. Then she checks voicemail and returns calls.
White then moves to the workload on her desk which includes scheduling, contacting agencies and taking care of constituents.
Staying connected to her family is important to White so she has lunch with her daughters, Jane and Claire, every day at the babysitter’s house, a short drive from work. Jane attends preschool several times a week in town and White likes to hear all about what she does while the two are together. Claire is still too young for preschool and gets as many snuggles as possible during lunch.
Three or four times a month White has meetings outside of her work hours. She said she is on the phone with Unes multiple times a day.
The biggest challenge she faces is navigating and sifting through politicians and citizens engaging in issues and policies.
“The lack of civility is second to the lack of truth,” White said. “People say whatever they need to say to get the attention for the issue. It’s painful to see and it creates unnecessary work to return tone back to a civil tone. I don’t know that it is unique to this office though.”
Weekends are filled with family time. She said on Saturday mornings she usually takes the girls out of the house while Ben does some of his freelance work. White likes to stay local and visit restaurants and cafes downtown, go to the Pekin Public Library, get to Jane’s dance class and go to the Riverfront Park to relax.