FULTON – State Sen. Neil Anderson is able to keep the situation in Springfield in perspective.
"There's nothing in Springfield as stressful as running into a burning building," he said Tuesday while speaking with Fulton High School students, during his "principal for a day" visit.
When he's not in session in Springfield, the 34-year-old is a firefighter with the Moline Fire Department. A Republican, he defeated Democrat Mike Jacobs in 2014 to win the 36th District seat, which serves all of Rock Island and almost all of Whiteside counties, as well as Thomson and Savanna in Carroll County.
Principal Christopher Tennyson took Anderson to several classes, and to a meeting with other district principals.
First, though, was Jeff Hoese's Media Publications class. The students cover school events, livestreaming some of them, and make a week-in-review video for distribution to the entire district.
They also use a drone for some projects, and Anderson took a turn flying the device at the high school football field with students Hannah Eades and Matt Munson.
"You don't really need something too big to do what we do," Munson explained.
Anderson spoke to two U.S. History 3 classes taught by Mike Ankrom. The lack of a state budget was among the topics.
"I do think we're close to hammering out a deal," Anderson said, later adding a plug for Illinois’ colleges, in response to Ankrom’s question about the lack of a budget and its effect on state universities, urging students looking at colleges to pick one in state.
He also talked about the difference between policy and politics.
"I love writing good policy and helping people who come to me. Politics is about making promises and trying to dirty the other side. Negative politics have become popular because of apathy," Anderson said, encouraging students to research every candidate before voting.
He talked with Stephanie Evans' Media Literacy class about how the media affects his career. "You guys deserve to know where I stand on issues," Anderson said, adding that he's been misquoted only once.
He and Tennyson had pizza with the Student Council, where junior Jenna Schrader talked with Anderson about college searches and her plans to become a physician's assistant.
"He had kind of the same route. I thought he was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to," Schrader said.
Anderson wrapped up his day with the students by talking about his firefighting work with Stacy Gates' Advanced Placement chemistry class.
"The thing that makes our job so awesome is that you go to work and never know what'll happen. I enjoy it," said Anderson, who said he takes time off without pay when he's attending Senate sessions.
Student Seth Sikkema asked how being a firefighter helped Anderson prepare for politics.
"There are deadlines in both you have to meet," Anderson said.
Earlier in the day, he and Tennyson traveled to the River Bend School District office to meet with district principals, community representative Warren Amman and Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside Regional Superintendent Bob Sondgeroth.
Anderson asked what state mandates drive the administrators crazy. The requirement that only 30 percent of students in a classroom can be special education students was mentioned.
"I'm a big proponent of having special ed kids in the classroom," Sondgeroth said.