Although he’s toyed with retiring before, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White — at 85 — says he won’t seek reelection in 2022.
White will finish his sixth term and won’t seek a seventh, spokesman Dave Druker said Thursday. White has plenty more to do in life “beyond being secretary of state,” Druker said.
“He enjoys working with the Tumblers and young people, and he’s going to stay involved in charitable events,” Druker said, referring to the Jesse White Tumbling Team, which White founded in 1959.
White has been Illinois secretary of state since 1999 — and won all 102 counties in 2002. His current term is a record sixth term.
White became the state’s longest-serving secretary of state on May 30, 2014.
He also said in 2016 that he would not seek reelection in 2018 — then, he changed his mind.
Politico’s Illinois Playbook first reported White’s decision to not seek reelection in 2022.
At the Cook County Democratic Party’s slating Thursday, many county committeemen were shocked but happy for the longtime secretary of state.
“Holy moly,” said state Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago. “A guy who has served as long and has had such a distinguished career as he has has earned whatever he wants. God bless the man, he’s earned it.”
Joe Berrios, former Cook County assessor and former county Democratic chairman, called White a “wonderful representative” who “took that office and made it one of the best in the world.”
“Kudos to him,” Berrios said. “He’s not really going to retire, because he’s going to be with the tumblers day in and day out.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said White has had a “great career, and I’m proud of him and the service he’s provided.”
Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston said White has been “an excellent secretary of state.”
“He’s been a public servant for most of his adult life,” Hairston said. “If he wants to do something else, my hat’s off to him. He’s served the people well.”
Under White, Illinois’ organ and tissue donor program has become one of the largest in the country. His office said White also strengthened DUI laws, changed the truck driver licensing program and overhauled teen driving guidelines, which resulted in a decrease in traffic fatalities and drunken driving deaths.
Before becoming secretary of state, White was Cook County recorder of deeds and served 16 years in the Illinois General Assembly.
He played seven seasons of minor-league baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization, followed by a 33-year career as teacher and administrator with Chicago Public Schools.
White was an Army paratrooper and member of the Illinois National Guard and Reserve.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article had incorrect information about the number of times White won all of the state’s 102 counties.