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‘s 78th District that includes Oak Park and Austin has a new state representative with ties to both communities. 

Camille Lilly, executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce who is an administrator at
Loretto Hospital, was named Saturday to fill Deborah Graham’s seat in the Illinois state legislature. One of two women among seven applicants vying for the post, Lilly was chosen by a select group of Democratic Party committeemen that met in Oak Park on Saturday. She received every committee vote but one.

Chaired by state Sen. Don Harmon (39th), the group met at the Carleton Hotel in
Oak Park that morning to interview candidates before making their choice. Lilly, a founding member of the Chamber and its volunteer director, attended grammar school and high school in Oak Park. Her parents recently moved from Oak Park to Plainfield, Ill.

Speaking to the panel, she stressed the importance of neighborhood connections and nonstop work toward community goals.

“It’s more than ‘We can.’- We must,” said Lilly, a 1979 graduate of
Oak Park and River High School; she also attended Oak Park‘s Hatch Elementary School.

Lilly said she will resign as the Chamber’s director but will continue to work at Loretto, where she’s served as vice president of external affairs. The House seat became vacant when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Graham 29th Ward alderman in March.

Graham, an
Austin resident, was part of Saturday’s committee to select Lilly. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Tom Cargie of River Forest, who put the name of Ralph Martire, a fellow River Forester, on a proxy ballot that he left with Harmon.

The other candidates who addressed the panel were Maretta Brown-Miller, Rev. Marshall Hatch, Ted Leverenz, Blake Sercye and Bruce Washington.

The decision came following a two-hour public meeting. By law, committeemen have the power to make appointments when certain elected offices become vacant, a process normally done behind closed doors. The committee Saturday included state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (7th); former Chicago alderman William J.P. Banks; and 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts-28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith voted by proxy through Mitts.

Tuesday was Lilly’s first official day on the job in
Springfield. The part-time, state rep position has an annual salary of nearly $68,000.

Austin Weekly News will have additional coverage in Thursday’s paper.


Helen Karakoudas contributed to this story