Originally Posted Online: May 11, 2013, 6:29 pm
Last Updated: May 11, 2013, 10:05 pm

Steffen to lead RICo GOP

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By Laura Anderson Shaw, landerson@qconline.com

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Photo: Laura Anderson Shaw
Mike Steffen, of Moline, was elected chairman of the Rock Island County Republican Party Saturday during a special meeting at the Republican headquarters in downtown Moline.

Mike Steffen was elected chairman of the Rock Island County Republican Party at a special meeting on Saturday afternoon at the Republican headquarters in downtown Moline.

"We must carry on bravely," the Moline man told a group of about 40 people, most of whom were Republican precinct committeemen.

Betsey Morthland, Republican precinct committeewoman for Coe Township and wife of former state Rep. Rich Morthland, also sought the position. Bill Long dropped his bid for the job late last week.

Mr. Steffen received 2,426 votes and Ms. Morthland received 1,212 during the secret-ballot vote Saturday. Each precinct committeeman's vote counted for the number of Republican votes cast in their precinct in the 2012 primary election.

As the new chairman, Mr. Steffen called for more Republicans to take seats on the Rock Island County Board, to re-elect those currently there and to fill empty precinct committeemen slots.

"With your help, we can do this," he said.

He plans to work to downsize the Rock Island County Board, he said, as well as do a better job of communicating with "non-white" communities, especially the Hispanic and black communities.

He also called for the executive committee to establish a public information officer position because "our Republican image in the community and in the media is important."

He told the group that there was "internal" work to be done as well, beginning with rewriting bylaws, which are "woefully outdated," and establishing regular hours at the headquarters with the addition of a part-time secretary.

"As you can see, there's much work to do," he said.

Mr. Steffen, who teaches at Lombard Middle School in Galesburg, said he plans to retire after the next school year to focus more on political endeavors.

He compared the way the Rock Island County Republican Party should work to a flock of geese. The leader of the flock "flaps like heck" to make it easier on the rest of the flock. When the leader gets tired, it falls back into the flock and another steps up to lead. Party members should think about where they stand in the flock, he said, and what they can do to make the flock more successful.

"We must leave this room ... more unified than when we came in."

After the meeting, Ms. Morthland said she wished Mr. Steffen the best. She thinks he will do a wonderful job, she said,"and really will set a very good tone for the direction of the party."

Longtime Rock Island County Republican Party leader Susie Carpentier was in good spirits Saturday, smiling as she surveyed the group of precinct committeemen who gathered.

Though she was stepping down as chairwoman, "I'll never give this up," she said.

She said there would be "a lot less stress" on her cellphone and email but, with her plans to campaign for state treasurer Dan Rutherford in the Republican primary for the 2014 gubernatorial elections, "I'll be busy."

Ms. Carpentier said she was "pleased" that Mr. Steffen was elected to lead the local party.

"I'm thrilled for Mike," she said. "There isn't anyone more energetic."