Susana Mendoza grew up believing that government couldn’t be trusted. Her Mexican parents had no faith in their home country’s political system, and their cynicism was passed on to her.
But after graduating college, Mendoza became a community activist and went on to hold several elected positions at the state and local level.
After losing her first election by only 55 votes, Mendoza was elected to the Illinois state House in 2001 at just 28 years old. It wasn't easy being so young: She says some colleagues confused her with staffers and others "would say they had shoes older than me."
Now Mendoza is the Illinois Comptroller -- meaning she oversees the state's finances -- following a decade of serving in the statehouse and five years as Chicago's city clerk.
On this episode of "The 23%: Conversations With Women in Government," she talks about her political journey, how she learned to see the good in government and what exactly is going on with Illinois' budget.
“There’s lots of hiding the ball in Springfield when it comes to how we’re spending the taxpayers' dollar," she says. "I really look at my role as being the state’s chief fiscal watchdog. ... We’ve been very successful at shining some light on what I would say are some shady deals that have been happening.”