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Illinois Country Living

November 2007 Issue: FeatureCommentaryCurrents SafetyGardenEnergy SolutionsFinest Cooking More

Senator Todd Sieben, who recently retired from the Illinois Senate, began his public service in 1987 as a Representative in the Illinois General Assembly.


Just North of Geneseo

Growing up understanding the value of family, friends and faith

The Sieben family farm sits just north of Geneseo, about four miles. Little did I know in 1986 when I was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly just how much influence the farm and life in this small rural community would have on my perspective of Illinois government and how I would work with and relate to my colleagues in the legislature.

In 1939, my father and grandfather started Sieben Hybrid Seed Company. Our family business grew to serve customers in Eastern Iowa, Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin as a regional, full-line seed company. We lived in town since my grandfather was still operating the farm.

Many of my best childhood memories relate to the trips with Grandpa out to the farm. There was always work to be done at the farm such as painting, cutting weeds, making hay and even cleaning the chicken coop.

There was also fun to be had at the farm, such as jumping off the platform into the haymow, or driving the little Ford tractor. There just didn't seem to be as many rules and regulations back then, on our farm just north of Geneseo.

We were fortunate to be one of the first farms in our area to have electricity. In 1935 my grandfather Ira Sieben helped organize Farmers Mutual Electric Cooperative, which is still in operation today and still serves our farm. Granddad liked to feed cattle and saw very early on the benefits that would come from electricity for him and his family. Knowing about his commitment to bring electricity to area farms in his day helped me to understand the concept that access to technology should not be limited to areas of high population density or restricted merely by one's geography.

Growing up in a small rural community also instilled certain character qualities that are essential to good public service. We grew up understanding the value of family, friends and our faith. We knew that it was important to look out for your neighbor, and if someone had a serious problem, the neighbors were always there to help take care of it, spiritually as well as materially.

We also learned the value of keeping commitments and the age-old truism that your word is your bond. An awful lot of business was done in those years on a handshake without legal contracts or other documentation.

Throughout the many years that my father, my older brother and I owned and operated Sieben Hybrids, we learned the value of good relationships and maintaining the trust and confidence of our customers. Since our seed customers only made one purchase a year, we spent a lot of time building that relationship. The trust, confidence and loyalty that was developed through those relationships had a tremendous amount to do with the success of our business.

Those same qualities are necessary today to be effective in the legislative process and in government service. Keeping your word, following through on commitments, and being loyal to those who are loyal to you are fundamental to good legislative work in Springfield.

One of the first committees I served on after being elected to the House of Representatives was the Public Utilities Committee. It was there that I first met my good friend Earl Struck. Earl, who recently passed away, was the President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. Earl became a lifelong legislative friend and a person that I admired greatly.

A few years later I had the opportunity to serve in the House and Senate with Duane Noland. Duane replaced Earl after he retired. Duane and I share a similar love of agriculture and life in rural Illinois. It has certainly not been an easy job to replace Earl Struck. However, Duane brings a unique set of skills and a tremendous amount of ability to carry on the great traditions that Earl put in place.

Growing up in rural Illinois and spending a good deal of time on the family farm just north of Geneseo has certainly influenced and shaped me as an individual. The people I've met and the experiences I've had in this lifestyle have had a lot to do with the way I've approached my service in Springfield.

The opinions and views of guest commentators are their own and may not represent those of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives or the electric co-ops of Illinois.

© 2007 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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