Lightning Talks


Time: 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm
Location: Capitol Building, Room 402A


Meet influential leaders who do their jobs “under the dome.” They’ll give you their rapid-fire take on what they do, five-minutes at a time.


You’ll hear from a The Director of the Department of Natural Resources, the Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, The Deputy Director of Government Affairs for CMS, a local lobbyist and consultant and more

OUR SPEAKERS

Natalie Phelps Finnie
Director
Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Natalie Phelps Finnie was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Jan. 23, 2023. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Illinois Senate.

A southern Illinois native, she has served as deputy director of IDNR since August 2021, overseeing legislative affairs; land management, which includes state parks and historic sites; mines and minerals; and oil and gas. She also served as the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act coordinator for the department, coordinating with the governor’s office and the U.S. Department of Interior to manage one of the largest capital investments in Illinois history.

Phelps Finnie served as a state representative for Illinois’ 118th Legislative District from September 2017 to January 2019. She has the distinction of being the first woman to hold that position, as well as being the first nurse to serve in the history of the General Assembly. She comes from a family of public servants. Her father served in the Illinois General Assembly from 1985 to 1998 and in Congress from 1999 to 2002.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Southern Indiana and a master’s degree in nursing-family nurse practitioner from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. As a health care provider, she is uniquely positioned to lead IDNR with her ability to rely on empathy and dissecting questions to get at the heart of problems while bringing people together. Likewise, her science background includes extensive education in biological sciences that will provide useful in policy decisions concerning the environment and conservation.

Phelps Finnie and her husband, Kyle, have three children – Lilly, Addy and Clay. They are active members of Star General Baptist Church in Eldorado. As a member of a family with a strong singing tradition, she is involved with the music ministry at church and sings in a gospel trio with her two sisters, known as The Phelps Sisters.

Christina Shutt
Executive Director
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Christina Shutt is the executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the premier institution for understanding the history and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and Illinois. She is a recognized leader in libraries and museums and is frequently sought after for her expertise in museum management and accreditation.

Since her appointment in 2021, Shutt has worked with legislators to transform the position of Illinois State Historian to focus on underrepresented history, launched community outreach efforts to make the institution more welcoming and inclusive, and hosted the signing ceremony to make Juneteenth an official state holiday in Illinois. Additionally, her innovative and collaborative leadership resulted in the ALPLM being awarded first-time national museum accreditation, a distinction only 3% of museums hold in the United States. 

Wendy Butler
Deputy Director – CMS Governmental Affairs
Illinois Department of Central Management Services

Wendy is a career State government employee, working for 6 different Administrations over 30+ years.

She describes herself as “A leader and learner with experience in human resources and governmental affairs. A creative personality with an analytical mind. A respect for public service and advocacy.”

Wendy began her State government career with the Secretary of State working for the Chief of Security. She served in the Office of Governor Jim Edgar in both the policy area and in the press office. She served 12 years at the Department of Conservation which became the Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Those years were as a Legislative Liaison.

Wendy has most recently worked at Central Management Services (CMS). She was the downstate Assessment Center Supervisor for CMS Personnel for 12 years. In that role she managed employment testing, the Veterans Outreach Program and the Disabled Workers Program for the Springfield, Champaign and Marion office locations.

Currently, she is the Deputy Director of Governmental Affairs at CMS where she has worked in that role since 2015.

In 2003, Wendy received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Illinois at Springfield with an emphasis in Environmental Studies as well. She was on the Dean’s List each semester.

As the Deputy Director of CMS Governmental Affairs, Wendy is responsible for the agency’s legislative agenda each session and identifying, tracking and working with the General Assembly on all legislation impacting CMS.

Wendy is married and lives in Springfield with her husband Tim and their 19-year-old shelter kitty Butterscotch.

Mona Martin
Founder
Mona Martin Government Affairs & Consulting

Mona Martin is a contract lobbyist and owner of her own firm, specializing in state government affairs, with an emphasis on access to healthcare. Prior to lobbying, she worked for the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, where she was the Deputy Director for the Office of Policy Development, Planning, and Research. In this capacity, she worked closely with the Governor’s Office, performing key functions for business deals, such as bringing the Boeing Company to Chicago. Ms. Martin was also part of a team that worked to expand the biotech industry in Illinois and bring the BIO 2006 Annual International Convention to Chicago.

During her 10 years with the Legislature, Ms. Martin was the Director of Research and Appropriations for the House Republican Staff for 7 years. She was responsible for developing the legislative agenda and fiscal policy for the caucus, in addition to coordinating the procedural conduct of the House during the 89th General Assembly. Ms. Martin resides in Springfield with her husband Dave and son Ben.

Dean Abbott
Radio & Audio Manager
Office of the House Minority Leader

After a 25+ year career in radio and television in Colorado, Wyoming, and Illinois, Dean Abbott came to the House Republican caucus in March of 2004.  He immediately began working with radio stations throughout the state of Illinois, providing audio cuts of House Republican members from all corners of the state.  His coverage includes Republican members explaining their bills and how they will affect their constituents, their thoughts on the governor’s State of the State and budget address, wrap-up reports on what is taking place in Springfield, and more.  Over the years that job has expanded to include different series of podcasts, including the latest, Capitol Crimes:  The Crimes Behind the Legislation.   “It is a job that is exciting, new, and fresh every single day” he said.  “Just when you think you have seen it all, something new comes along that keeps the energy flowing and the love of the job reaching new levels.”

Dean resides in Chatham with his wife, Fran, two children and assorted cats and dogs.  They are owners of Scoop Du Jour, an ice cream, coffee, and donut shop in Chatham. 

OUR MODERATOR

Vicki Crawford
Communications Strategist

In her 30 years in state government Vicki Crawford has worked with six administrations, witnessed an impeachment and watched an Illinois state senator became President of the United States. She brings her unique experiences working “under the dome” to her role as moderator for our Lightning Talks.

Vicki began her career with the state of Illinois in the Office of the Minority Leader as the Deputy Director of Communications. In 2009 she was promote to Director where she led the pubic relations staff in supporting the communications needs of more than 50 legislators. In 2013, Vicki took on the role of Press Spokesperson for the House Minority Leader developing and implementing strategic communications plans, working closely with reporters and assisting the Minority Leader with outreach. In 2017, she joined the Illinois Commerce Commission as Senior Public Information Officer in the Office of Public Affairs until her retirement in 2022.