Laurel Prussing is an economist who has been elected to a number of public offices – generally as the first woman to hold the seat. She began her community service in the 1970s with an environmental group formed by women. Housewives Involved in Pollution Solutions started recycling programs and helped start recycling businesses in Champaign County. Recycling collection was later adopted by the cities of both Urbana and Champaign.
Her political career as a progressive and innovative Democrat includes:
- Mayor of Urbana from 2005-2017 (first woman to hold the office). She led Urbana through the Great Recession and the loss of Carle Hospital taxes without laying off employees, while holding the line on city property taxes. She negotiated cuts in the most rapidly growing expenses without cutting services. Urbana is perhaps the only public or private employer in the U.S. which lowered its cost of employee health insurance over four years, without cutting employee benefits (saving over $3 million).
- State Representative from 1993-1995 (second woman to hold the office) the only Democrat elected in the 103rd District in the 10 years it was gerrymandered to be won by a Republican.
- Champaign County Auditor from 1976-1992, the first Democratic woman elected countywide, and the first County Auditor in Illinois to receive national awards in budgeting and in financial reporting.
- Champaign County Board from 1972-1976, as one of the first three women ever elected to the board. After their victory, it became socially acceptable for women to run for this office.