Jesse White has been coming to Grundy County for close to 30 years, he estimated, ever since he ran into a dance team from Broadway Dance Center down in Springfield, when he was a state representative from Chicago.
“He took us out onto the House floor,” remembered Kim Scerine, artistic director at the dance center in Diamond. She said their own representative at the time couldn’t be found.
On Sunday, White returned to the dance center for a meet and greet event. He said it has nothing to do with the fact that his opponent for the Secretary of State’s office in November, Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, is from Grundy County.
“I’ve been coming to Grundy County three times a year for almost 30 years,” he said. He comes to perform with his performance troupe, the Jesse White Tumblers, at events, including at the Grundy County Corn Festival.
Scerine said that they planned the event about a year ago. At that time, when dancers from her studio were performing with the Tumblers, she said the intermission went on far longer than it was supposed to because everyone wanted to talk to White.
The Jesse White Tumblers was founded in 1959. White said that he was a gymnast and taught gymnastics for a while both for the Chicago Board of Education and in college. He said it was a way for him to give back.
“When you come through this world, and you become successful, you give back,” he said.
Responding to some of Helland’s attacks on how he runs the Secretary of State’s Office, White said he’s proud of the job he’s done with the office. He said it used to be that when customers would show up at the office, they would have to bring a “duffle bag and a sleeping bag” to wait.
“When I would leave with my license, I would feel like I got taken to the woodshed,” White said. “Customers are no longer treated in a disrespectful manner.”
Helland has also made White’s age an issue at the election. White, who is 84 years old and has been secretary of state since 1999, responded by saying “age is nothing but a number.”
“I don’t think I look or act my age,” he said.
Also present at the event was Will County Executive Larry Walsh.
“He has turned that office completely around,” Walsh said of the Secretary of State’s Office. He also said there have been no investigations or scandals in 20 years.
White also addressed the group at Broadway Dance Center and discussed organ donation. He told the story of his sister, who received an organ transplant.
“I thank God she was able to live 27 additional years,” he said.
White said one organ donor can help up to 25 individuals. He remembered a time when a member of the Tumblers was shot and killed. His organs went on to save multiple people on the organ donation list.