Monday, December 01, 2014

Leadership lived: UIS student serves on local city council and school board

The University of Illinois Springfield is known for educating some of the state’s most effective public servants and that’s exactly why Peyton Bernot decided to earn his degree at UIS.

At 21, the political science major is already applying what’s he’s learned in the classroom – as an elected official in his hometown of Benld, Illinois.

Bernot is an alderman in Benld where he chairs the finance committee and oversees the city’s budget. He’s also a Gillespie CUSD #7 school board member.

“I was elected to both capacities when I was 18, a senior in high school,” said Bernot. “I’ve always had a love for politics and I’m the prime example of a political animal.”

In 2011, Bernot decided to run for the school board and city council because he disagreed with many of the decisions being made by elected officials. He defeated incumbent opponents in both races to win.

Two years later, Bernot decided to run for mayor of Benld. He lost the race, but says he learned a lot from the experience.

“You learn more from losing than you do from winning and I think that’s served me well,” he said.

Bernot is pursuing his bachelor’s degree at UIS to learn about the theories behind political science. He chose UIS because of its location in the state capital and abundance of internship opportunities.

“I just recently completed an internship with the Illinois Petroleum Council and it was a great experience. Without UIS I wouldn’t have had that experience,” he said.

After he graduates from UIS, Bernot wants to either earn his master’s in public administration from UIS or attend law school in Chicago. He knows the latter would mean giving up his political career in Benld.

“I’ve always been told don’t forget where you come from and I won’t,” said Bernot. “That applies to UIS and (Benld).”

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