Don't tell Chapin Rose (AB, '97, political science; JD, '00, law) that he's too young to make a mark on the world. Six years after graduating with a degree in political science from the College of LAS and three years out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Law, this 28-year-old is rewriting death penalty laws and helping rebuild the Republican Party in Illinois.
As the second youngest member of Illinois' House of Representatives, Rose has discovered that youth is among his strongest assets. "I can't tell you how many times people told me they were voting for me because of my age," says Rose of his 2002 campaign, in which he won 68 percent of the vote. "Many of my counterparts in Springfield are seen as jaded. I still believe that we can take this legislative process, which focuses on this year, and implement strategies for where we want the state to be 20 years from now."
This enthusiasm is backed up by a resume that testifies he is no newcomer to accomplishment. While in high school, Rose campaigned for Jim Edgar during his first successful run for Illinois governor, an experience that sold Rose on politics. As an undergraduate, he was twice elected to serve as a student trustee on the University's Board of Trustees, an experience that he remembers as "the highest honor a student could ask for." While a second-year law student, he began working on the staff of the Champaign County State Attorney's Office, where his eye for detail helped him notice a potentially dangerous loophole in the law. A quirk in the legislation allowed drivers to pass stopped school buses on school property without being ticketed. Concerned about the threat this oversight posed to children's safety, Rose lobbied legislators to close the loophole and organized bus drivers and staff at the regional office of education to support the change.
Rose has always done more than just what the job required. His performance in the state attorney's office qualified him for a "711 license," which empowered him to prepare and prosecute criminal cases in Champaign County courts while still a law student. The license goes only the 20 to 30 percent of law students who have completed certain core courses and are committed to public service. After obtaining his JD in 2000, he was promoted to senior assistant state's attorney handling felony cases. He was also in charge of the accelerated disposition program. It was his job to identify defendants awaiting their final dispositions in jail and to speed along their cases to conserve money spent by the county on housing these inmates. Under Rose's leadership, inmate incarceration dropped by 800 days in just one quarter, saving the taxpayers of Champaign County over $32,000. After 9/11, he helped found the Champaign County Memorial Grove Committee. This bi-partisan organization is dedicated to planting one tree for each victim.
His hero is Teddy Roosevelt, a larger-than-life figure who Rose admires for his fearlessness in pursuing powerful monopolies and his vision for starting the National Park Service. Rose's own style of politics, though, is decidedly down to earth. He commutes the 100 miles to Springfield every day the legislature is in session so that he can be back home each evening, shaking hands with his constituents. Youth is again an advantage in keeping up with these 16-hour days. Rose campaigned for state representative on a platform of property tax relief, agricultural initiatives, job creation, and strengthening higher education. Considering all he's achieved in so little time, there's no telling what may be next on his agenda.