Born in Louisiana, Rena’ Parker graduated from Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School and began her legal career in 1978 as a legal secretary for Joe B. McDade, who was then an attorney and is now a federal judge. She later worked for attorney Kevin Lyons and followed him to the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she served as office administrator.
Rena’ married Drew Parker in 1986, and retired two years later to spend more time with Rob, her then 10-year-old stepson. During this time she volunteered for the Pediatric Resource Center, Father Sweeney School and Notre Dame High School, before becoming a Master Gardener and launching her own landscape design business.
After managing Kevin Lyons’ successful 2008 re-election campaign, she returned to work as office administrator in the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office. In 2014 she became court administrator for the 10th Judicial Circuit, where she continues to serve today, ensuring proper operations of the court, overseeing the annual budget, and supervising more than 100 employees. Among her greatest achievements, she was recently appointed to the Illinois Judicial Conference, Justice for All Advisory Committee and the Access & Dispute Resolution Task Force by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Rena’ has a passion for gardening, cooking, entertaining, flower arranging, interior decorating, sewing and “anything that allows me to be creative,” she explains. She also enjoys fishing, hiking and hunting for morel mushrooms and shed antlers with her husband, a fellow nature lover.
- What is your motto? Always treat others as you would want them to treat you.
- Biggest regret: That I didn’t go to college. After I graduated from high school, I was working full-time as a bookkeeper and registered at ICC for night classes in accounting, but never received a degree.
- Person who’s had the greatest impact on my life: My husband, Drew. I’ve learned so much from him, and he is always encouraging and supportive in everything I have ever wanted to accomplish. Even after 35 years of marriage, he still makes me laugh every day.
- Favorite leisure activity: Reading—when I have time. I love to curl up with a good mystery.
- Favorite sport: I love to watch almost all sports, and my favorite sport to play is tennis.
- Have you ever been told you look like somebody famous? Yes, I am often told I look like actress Mary McDonnell, who co-starred in Dances with Wolves.
- Most embarrassing moment: After turkey hunting with Drew and his hunting buddies one morning, we all went to breakfast at Oak Run. No one told me, when I wiped the face paint off before going into the restaurant, that I forgot to wipe my eyes. I sat through the entire breakfast with two huge black eyes. No wonder everyone was looking at me as they walked by!
- Do you collect anything unique? I’ve been collecting antique crystal perfume bottles for many years.
- What do you do to relax? I enjoy being outside doing just about anything—especially working in the gardens at our home and at our farm near Dahinda. I find it very relaxing and enjoyable.
- Words to live by: A poem by Walter D. Wintle, altered a bit: “If you think you can, you can. If you think you dare not, you don’t. If you think you’d like to win, but you think you can’t, it’s almost a cinch: you won’t. For out in this world you’ll find success begins with a person’s will; it’s all in a state of mind. If you think you can, you can.” PM