Jesse White

Illinois’ 37th Secretary of State

BIO: Jesse White is Illinois’ 37th Secretary of State. White was first elected to the office in 1998 and won landslide victories in 2002, in which he won all 102 counties, and again in 2006 and 2010. On November 4, 2014, White was re-elected to a record-breaking fifth term, winning another landslide victory by a 2-to-1 margin in which he earned over 2.3 million votes statewide – more than 230,000 votes than any other statewide constitutional candidate. White became Illinois’ longest serving Secretary of State on May 30, 2014.
The Illinois Secretary of State’s office is the largest and most diverse office of its kind in the nation, providing more direct services to the people of Illinois than any other public agency. White’s office issues state ID cards, vehicle license plates and titles; registers corporations; enforces the Illinois Securities Act; administers the Organ/Tissue Donor Program; licenses drivers; and maintains driver records. As State Librarian, Secretary White oversees the State Library and literacy programs, and as State Archivist, he maintains records of legal or historic value.
Under White’s leadership, customer service has been improved through the use of technology as well as modernizing and streamlining operations. Wait times in facilities are shorter than ever before. Illinois has become a national leader in road safety as White strengthened DUI laws, reformed the CDL program and overhauled teen driving guidelines. As a result, traffic fatalities have decreased, with drunk driving deaths down nearly 50 percent and teen driving deaths reduced by 51 percent. In 2014, White was inducted into the Illinois High School & College Driver Education Association Hall of Fame.
Prior to his election as Secretary of State, White served as Cook County Recorder of Deeds – a job to which he was first elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. Before that, he served 16 years in the Illinois General Assembly, representing the most culturally, economically and racially diverse district in Illinois.
In 1959, White founded the internationally known Jesse White Tumbling Team to serve as a positive alternative for children residing in and around the Chicago area. Since its inception, more than 17,500 young men and women have performed with the team. White has spent 58 years working as a volunteer with the team to help kids stay away from gangs, drugs, alcohol and smoking, and to help set at-risk youth on the path to success. The program has received international praise. This year the team will make more than 1,500 performances using seven units, consisting of 225 young men and women. Currently, there are 51 members enrolled in college. In 2014, the Chicago Park District opened the Jesse White Community Center and Field House in honor of White’s lifelong contributions to the community. In addition, a school in Hazel Crest, Illinois, was recently renamed the Jesse C. White Learning Academy, and a Chicago street was designated Jesse White Way in honor of White.
White served our country as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and as a member of the Illinois National Guard and Reserve. He played professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs organization, which was followed by a 33-year career with the Chicago Public Schools as a teacher and administrator.
Jesse White earned his Bachelor of Science from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) in 1957, where he was a two-sport athlete earning all-conference honors in baseball and basketball. In May 1995, White was inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame. He was an all-city baseball and basketball player at Chicago’s Waller High School (now Lincoln Park High School) and was inducted into the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in June 1995. In 1999, he was inducted into the Alabama State University Sports Hall of Fame. Born in Alton, Illinois, he now lives on Chicago’s Near North Side. White has two daughters, Glenna and Lorraine, and two grandchildren, Jesse and Susan.


Kristin Bush and Kerri Gefeke

BIO: Kristin Bush joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 17, leaving home for basic training as soon as she graduated high school. She then attended the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey for a 53-week course in Chinese. As a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force, Kristin spent 6 years on active duty, supporting the National Security Agency with her skills as a Chinese linguist. Kristin earned many awards for her service including a Joint Service Achievement Medal for her 6-month deployment to Naples, Italy in support of NATO and the Global War on Terror.

Kerri Gefeke previously spent 4 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy; as a Petty Officer Second Class, she served as a Korean linguist in Hawaii after also attending the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey. Kerri has now served in the Illinois Army National Guard for 5 years and is currently assigned as the Plans Officer for the 44th Chemical Battalion in Bloomington, Illinois. Unfortunately, she could not be in attendance on June 1, as she is the Acting Commander of the 44th Chemical Battalion HHC and was training with her unit. First Lieutenant Gefeke says the best part of her job is mentoring and supporting her soldiers, enabling them to be more successful in and out of uniform.

Notably on Pride Night, Kristin and Kerri met while serving in the Air Force and Navy under the now-revoked Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, but are proud that Kerri is now serving openly in the Illinois Army National Guard with honor and the support of her wife Kristin.


Stephen Joseph

BIO: Stephen Joseph served in the U.S. Navy (Active Duty) from 1984 – 2004 where he attained the rank of Aviation Boatswain Mate (Handler) First Class Petty Officer. He served a total of 20 years and 2 months where he made five major deployments on different ships including deployment to the Persian Gulf on three separate occasions. His first tour to the Gulf was for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His first deployment was part of El Dorado Canyon on April 15, 1986.