Politics in the Family: Linda Frank and Deb Frank Feinen
By Jim Meadows
Linda Frank and her daughter, attorney Deb Frank Feinen are both Republicans, with decades of political experience between them. Frank recently retired after serving five terms as Champaign County Circuit Clerk, while her daughter Deb serves on the Champaign City Council.
Linda Frank was first in her family to run for public office. But even before her family had politicians, she said they loved politics.
Illinois Public Media’s Jim Meadows spoke with the two of them
Linda: When I was growing up, my mom was an election judge, and she worked at what she called “city hall”. And so, politics was something that we always discussed at the dinner table growing up.
JM: And that continued when YOU (Deb) were growing up?
Deb: Oh sure. Because my dad (Steve Frank) was law partners with Tim Johnson, and my mom eventually was on the county board. So it was just part of what we did. We spent summers campaigning and we talked about it all the time.
JM: Something that occurs to me, is that there must have been families out there, where the take on politics was totally different, in that you might have gone to school with kids who just knew nothing of politics, or what they got from their parents was that all politicians were bad.
Deb: I’m not sure I remember that as a kid. But my daughter, she finds it strange that there are kids who don’t talk about politics, that there are kids who don’t know how government works at the level that she does. She knows about county government, she knows about city council, and how taxes pay for fixing potholes in the street. And she just thinks that everybody should understand it that way, and she’s only 11. Lots of little 11-year-olds are really not interested in how a pothole gets fixed.
Linda: And she, like Deb, has attended council meetings, where Deb used to go to county board meetings with me, and just see how the whole system works.
JM: I’m just trying to imagine how a public government meeting looks to somebody when they’re a kid.
Deb: Sometimes, she’s interested in whatever we’re discussing, because we’ve talked about it at home and, ‘boy, I wonder where the votes are gonna be, and this is important to me’. But she particularly likes sitting in the TV chair, so she can be on Channel Five (laughs).
JM: And the years go by with both of you holding political office. Did you talk about things much? And did you have advice for your mom as well?
Deb: Oh, sometimes. I think we trust each other and trust each other’s instincts. She’s often the phone call I make at ten o’clock, when I’m coming home from a city council meeting. And something’s happened that I want to talk to somebody about. And she’s often up because she watched us on TV. And she’ll say, ‘oh, you know, I thought this or that about your discussions’. We’re still in touch a lot.
Linda: I’ve never told Deb how to vote, or even suggested how she should vote on an issue. But because we have the experiences—- we know the same players who come to the meetings—- it’s just a fun conversation for us.