GIBSON CITY – Retired high school English teacher Beverly Zebarth wasn’t surprised to learn last week that her former student, Scott Bennett, was selected to serve as the state senator for the 52nd District.
“Scott has always had a gift, or should I say many gifts,” Zebarth said. “He could communicate eloquently through writing or speaking.”
Bennett joked after his Senate inauguration that it was because he liked to talk that a career in politics or law seemed logical when he was younger.
“My teachers, like Mrs. Zebarth, Mrs. Funk and Ms. Riley would encourage me to go into politics,” Bennett said. “Mrs. Zebarth used to say, ‘You think you can talk yourself out of trouble.’”
As he reflected on his Senate appointment last week, Bennett credited his teachers and the community for his many successes.
“It was a great place to grow up,” Bennett said of Gibson City. “I felt very supported by the teachers there.”
Although his uncle, Tom Bennett, was active in politics while he was growing up, it was being selected for the American Legion’s Boys State program that gave Scott Bennett his first experience with politics.
He also credits his grandfather, Lee Barry, with introducing him to civic duty.
“A lot of this is owed to him. My grandfather was one of the founding Rotary members and was on city boards,” Bennett said. “I saw how active he was in Gibson City.”
So, after graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in history and from the University of Illinois with a law degree, Scott Bennett became a civic leader as well.
Like his grandfather, he became active in his church, in the Rotary and in his community.
He also became active in the Democratic Party, working on campaigns, including Mike Frerich’s campaign for Illinois Treasurer. Still, until it came time to replace Frerichs, Bennett never knew if he would ever be a candidate himself.
“I knew people in the community and have taken leadership roles,” Bennett said. “A lot of people said I'd be a good candidate.”
Part of the reason Bennett was chosen is that he intends to seek re-election and the selection committee felt he could run a strong campaign, attracting diverse voters.
“People are looking for solutions,” Bennett said. “They don’t care what side of the aisle they come from.”
Although he has no plans to seek a higher office, Zebarth is convinced Bennett could be President if he wanted to.
“I never once doubted he would reach his dream,” Zebarth said. “With Stacey (his wife) and their twins at his side, I believe he is unstoppable!”