By Madeleine Neal
Ann Williams, a University of Iowa Class of ’91 alum and former reporter and section editor for The Daily Iowan, said working in a newsroom continues to help in her career as a state representative for Illinois’ 11th District on Chicago’s North Side.
Williams, who is serving her fourth term in the Illinois Statehouse, was a journalism major at the UI with a minor in political science.
When she started writing for the DI, she said, she worked on a politics beat.
“… It was very deadline-oriented, and [the writer] had immediate results — you work on a story one day, you do research, you review the sources, you prepare the story, it goes to the copy editor,” she said. “… and I remember the next day, I would see the story, I wish I had more specifics — this was a long time ago, but I’d open my door of my apartment, and I’d see the paper, and there was my story. Front page. I worked so hard, and there was a real product …”
Her first paid political position after graduating from the UI was for the Iowa Democratic Party, where she worked on a campaign for one of Iowa’s first female gubernatorial candidates, Bonnie Campbell, and worked for the Bill Clinton presidential campaign. She also attended the Drake University law school, in Des Moines.
“I think being a good legislator requires a variety of experience, so whether it was interacting with various groups as a reporter at The Daily Iowan or seeing the side of politics from a staff perspective, I think all of that goes into understanding what it means to represent a community of people,” she said.
Williams also worked for state legislators after law school, which was her first job after school. That solidified her track in the political and legislative arenas, she said.
“… I guess I would say you obviously get to learn about the issues, and you get to learn about some policy matters you otherwise wouldn’t,” she said. “… But I think the most important thing is you recognize how critical it is whether you’re representing someone at the gubernatorial level, or on a campaign for a state [representative] or senator, or even a more local race, you understand the importance of representing the community and representing the community values …”
Williams said she saw the importance of taking in community input firsthand while working for the Iowa Democratic Party.
“The successful candidates, the successful platforms, were those that reflected what you were hearing in the community and the priority of that community … and I would say that is true to this day,” she said. “In my area, I hear from constituents on everything from gun-violence prevention to public education, public safety, and fighting back against the [President] Trump agenda … In order to be effective, I need to be engaged and involved in all those topics …”
An appointee to the Illegal Gun Trafficking Task Force, she works with a segment of the Department of Public Safety geared toward enforcing gun possession and trafficking laws in Illinois.
She is an advocate for the environment, previously chairing on the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee. She also worked with other legislators focused on growing a green economy, known as the Green Caucus.
Chairing the Tourism, Hospitality and Craft Industries Committee, Williams hones in on economic benefits and job growth tied to tourism and hospitality, and she serves on the board of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
As a board member of Personal PAC, Williams worked on supporting the group, which tries to ensure access to reproductive health care.
There’s a natural nexus between politics and journalism that continues to help her, Williams said. Whether she is writing a story, position paper, a piece of legislation, or even a press release, she said, she follows a similar protocol.
“You have to check your sources, you have to talk to the experts, you have to start with a good lead, or no one is going to read it,” she said. “… So a lot of the same skills that I utilized there I learned to do very efficiently, I do all the time now.”