Lightford bio

Since the beginning of her political career, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford has been a vocal champion for her strongest passions: promoting quality education, advocating for quality healthcare and providing support for working families. She is the first African-American woman to be appointed senate majority leader.

Lightford became assistant majority leader in 2009 and enhanced her role as an advocate for education reform. Leader Lightford has served on the Senate Education Committee for 20 years as either a sitting member, Vice Chair or Chairman. Her expertise positioned her as the top negotiator on the legislation developed as a part of President Obama’s Race to the Top program, leading to the establishment of stronger methods of evaluating teachers and tracking student progress.

Lightford facilitated laws that put the best teachers in classrooms, provide universal preschool to three- and four-year olds and make sure children start school by the age of six. She also greatly increased the safety of school children by providing specialized bullying prevention curricula and no bullying school zones.

Lightford helped to re-enroll high school dropouts by establishing the Illinois Hope and Opportunity Pathways through Education Program. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hailed the senator’s landmark education reform law as “a national model” which aimed at boosting student performance through accountability for schools, administrators and teachers. She also negotiated SB 7, the most significant education reform in 30 years, with hope to ensure every child in Illinois public schools has a quality teacher.

Senator Lightford also sponsored SB 100, which mandates out-of-school suspensions longer than three days, expulsions and disciplinary removals to alternative schools are reserved for situations when a student’s presence is a safety threat or substantial disruption to the learning environment. It took effect in 2016.

In 2017, a measure aimed at reducing teen suicide and the stigma of mental health issues was signed into law. Leader Lightford led the effort that requires social and emotional screenings for children as a part of their school entry examinations to promote life-altering early detection.

Senator Lightford has also made it a top priority to help working families, especially during tough economic times. She is responsible for the 2003 and 2006 laws that gradually increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $8.25 per hour.

Lightford filed additional legislation in 2014 and 2017 to gradually increase the minimum wage, and in 2017, her measure to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour was vetoed by Gov. Rauner. In 2019, she raised the minimum wage for a third time when Gov. Pritzker signed a law that gradually increases it to $15 per hour, helping more than 1 million low-income citizens throughout Illinois provide for their families.

In 2005 and again in 2010, Leader Lightford passed laws to protect working families from predatory lending practices with sweeping reforms to Illinois’ payday loan industry. She has also sponsored a measure to establish a Council on Responsible Fatherhood and laws allowing for expungement of criminal records, making it easier for men and women who have paid their debts to society to turn their lives around.

Lightford has also been a leading voice on women’s issues since her 1998 election made her the youngest African-American woman ever elected to the Illinois. In 2003, she was the lead sponsor of the Equal Pay Act, which bans employers from discriminating between employees on the basis of gender when it comes to salaries. She strengthened the act in 2010 by allowing women who have been discriminated against more time to file an action against an employer.

In 2018,Lightford passed the African-American Equal Pay Act to help combat the wage gap for African Americans. She has also sponsored numerous bills focusing on women’s health care.

In addition to promoting a progressive legislative agenda, Leader Lightford has single-handedly fought for 15 years to rebuild an inner city not-for-profit hospital in one of the lowest income communities in Chicago. She understands the importance the facility plays in providing quality health care and more than 500 jobs to the residents of Austin. Lightford’s dedication helped bring more than $20 million in grants to the facility to replace outdated boilers, build a state-of-the-art emergency department, add a pharmacy and remodel all bed space. The hospital named their emergency department The Kimberly A. Lightford Emergency Department.

Leader Lightford fought for nearly two decades to shepherd funding to a community center operated by the Maywood Park District, understanding the important role recreation centers play for communities. Thanks to her efforts, the center secured nearly $3 million for the project, which was named the Lightford Recreation Center on Dec. 1, 2018 by the Maywood Park District upon its completion.

Leader Lightford has been a positive force for change in her district. She initiated the innovative “Uplift Our Future” program, a Saturday University which provides supplemental educational opportunities for middle schoolers, an annual college fair and back to school event, and a mentoring effort for 8th grade students. She also hosts a yearly Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Rainbow Tea and organizes annual awareness events for breast cancer and prostate cancer. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Proviso-Leyden Council for Community Action, Inc., Loretto Hospital, and the Boys and Girls Club of West Cook County. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Leader Lightford holds a bachelor’s degree in public communications from Western Illinois University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She gained extensive management experience working at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Secretary of State’s office.

Since 1998, she has represented the 4th Senate District which includes more than a dozen suburban communities in western Cook County and the Austin community area on Chicago’s West Side.

In addition to serving as the Chair of the Assignments Committee during the 101st General Assembly, Lightford serves on the following committees: Education; Energy and Public Utilities; Executive Appointments; Executive; Higher Education; Labor; Oversight Medicaid Mang. Care, Spec; Supplier Diversity, Special Com. On; Subcommittee on Gov. Operations (Sub-Chairperson). Senator Lightford also serves as the Chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. She resides with her family in Maywood.

In recognition of her efforts, Leader Kimberly A. Lightford has received numerous awards from a variety of organizations, including:

• Voices of Change Award, 2017
• Excellence in Public Service Award 2017, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Delta Day at the Illinois State Capitol Building
• Harambee Award 2017, Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. Ebony Chapter
• State Senator of the Year 2017, National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Chapter
• White Eagle Award 2016, True Eagle Beauty Foundation, Inc.Beauty In /Beauty Out Reflection Award 2015 Outstanding Political Leadership
• Austin People Action Center Teen Reach Award 2015
• National Alliance of Mental Illness Metro Suburban Community Partner of the Year 2015
• Illinois Hunger Coalition Paul Simon Public Service Award 2015
• Dorothy Brown Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, 2015 An Outstanding Elected Official
• National Pan-Hellenic Council of Chicago 2015 Soror of the Year, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
• The Construction Industry Service Corporation 2014 Public Body of the Year Award
• Alternative School Network 2014 Champion for Youth
• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Glen Ellyn Area Alumnae Chapter's 2014 Community Impact Award
• The Answer Inc., 2014 Legislator of the Year Award
• Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Chi Lambda Lambda Chapter 2014 Women of Excellence for Outstanding Service in Politics
• Top Ladies of Distinction Incorporated West Suburban Chicago Chapter 2013 Orchid Award
• Boys and Girls Club of West Cook County 2013 Recognition of your Continuous Support of Our Club Members, Staff and Board
• Distinguished Citizen Award 2013 from Loretto Hospital Foundation
• The Black Women’s Expo Phenomenal Woman Political Award 2013
• Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Tau Alpha Zeta Chapter Outstanding Service Award 2013
• Illinois Reading Council Legislator of the Year Award 2013
• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Champaign-Urbana Alumnae Chapter Public Service Award 2013
• Arise Chicago 2012 Faithful Leadership Award
• Community and Economic Development Association (CEDA) Award for Being an Energy Partner 2012
• Progressive Life Giving Word Cathedral Community Love Award 2012
• IEA-NEA 2012 Friend of Education Award
• Illinois AFL-CIO 2012 Outstanding Legislator - ZeKe Giorgi Award
• Youth Advocate of the Year 2012 Award-M.A.P.S. Organization
• Illinois Association of Park Districts Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award 2011
• Voices for Illinois Children October 2011
• Chicago Defender’s 2011 “Women of Excellence” Award
• Alternative School Network “The Education Champion” Award 2010
• Safer Foundation's Carre Visionary Award December 2010
• West Side Chapter NAACP Good Government Civic Award 2010
• Health Care Council of Illinois Champion of Senior Care Award 2009
• Illinois Principals Association 2009 “Friend of Illinois Principals” Award
• The 2009 West Suburban Journal History Makers Award
• Rainbow Push Coalition 2007 “Woman of Distinction” Award
• Voice Of The People Award 2007 Let’s Talk Let’s Test Foundation
• “She Truly Watches Over The Children of North Riverside Award 2006
• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Joliet Area/South Suburban Chapter Echoes of Excellence Award 2005
• Proviso/Leyden N.A.A.C.P. Good Government Civic Award 2005
• Leadership in Fatherhood Movement Award 2003
• Illinois Banker Association Outstanding Legislator 2003
• Freedom Schooner Amistad 2003 Freedom Award
• Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Legislative Leadership Award 2002
• Proviso/Leyden NAACP Good Government Civic Award 2002
• South Austin Coalition Community Service Award for Helping Austin Seniors 2001
• Loyola Hospital’s “Appreciation for Your Efforts on Behalf of the School Based Health Center” 2001
• Chicago Teachers Union “Certificate of Commendation” for Support of Public Education 2000
• Habilitative Systems, Inc. “Freeing the Human Spirit” Award September 2000
• The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park 2000 Dream Maker Award
• Westside Holistic Family Services Faith In Action 2000
• Western Illinois University Alumni Achievement Award December 1999