WAUKEGAN – Republican Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor took office Wednesday as the new state representative for much of northern Lake County, including Antioch and Lindenhurst.
She replaces JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican who decided a couple of weeks ago that she would resign after a dozen years representing House District 61. She had already decided against running for another term.
On Monday, Lake County Republican leaders selected Jesiel, 56, as Osmond's replacement. That was largely expected because Jesiel ran unopposed in March's GOP primary.
In a news release last week, Democratic candidate Loren Karner accused the two of arranging a "backroom" deal to appoint Jesiel. He called it an attempt to give his opponent a taxpayer-funded job to boost her political campaign.
In an interview after Jesiel's swearing-in, Osmond rejected the idea of a backroom deal.
"She didn't know I was going to step down until late May," Osmond said.
In response to Karner, Jesiel said, "That's his opinion. I'll work for the taxpayers."
Wearing a black and white dress, Jesiel was sworn in by Lake County Judge John Phillips in a courtroom at the County Courthouse. Just as she stepped up, one of her grandchildren shouted, "Nana!"
After the swearing-in, the few dozen people in the audience gave her a standing ovation. She then had her picture taken with her parents.
In a speech, the new legislator said she had long voted for Osmond, who was appointed in December 2002 to replace her late husband, Tim.
"It's an honor to follow her," Jesiel said.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin told the audience that Osmond, the assistant leader, had been an outstanding legislator.
"We looked at her as the mother hen, which is how she characterized herself. There were many crazy chicks in the caucus who needed guidance," he said.
"As the mother hen, I feel we should party," Osmond said.
The Republicans proceeded to a reception at Midlane Golf Resort in Wadsworth.