Kathleen Vinehout: Dairy Farmer, College Professor, State Senator
Kathleen Vinehout, 53, came to politics relatively late in her career after spending 10 years running the family dairy farm and the 10 years before that teaching health administration to college students.
In her first run for public office, Kathleen was elected in 2006 to the state Senate from a large, mostly rural district in the western part of the state. She was re-elected in 2010 and is serving her second four-year term.
In the Senate, she has worked to make health care affordable, create health insurance exchanges for individuals, farmers and small businesses, bring more equity to school funding, keep consumer protection provisions in our telecommunication laws and improve the efficiency of state government operations.
Prior to being elected to the Senate, Kathleen was the primary operator of the family’s dairy farm near Alma. She received many quality milk awards and was elected president of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association in Buffalo County. The farm is now certified organic and produces hay and grain.
Before she and her husband started their dairy farm, Kathleen directed both graduate and undergraduate programs in health administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield. For ten years she was a member of the faculty and taught in the Health Services Administration and Women’s Studies Programs. Her focus was state health policy, health care organization, the history of health care reform and health problems facing rural communities. Kathleen holds both a Ph.D. in health services research and a Masters of Public Health from St. Louis University. She also holds degrees in Education and Agriculture.
Kathleen has experienced health care from all sides. Her first job was as a nursing assistant. She has worked in staff and management roles in a variety of settings including a university medical center, primary care, acute care, home care and long term care. As a farmer she and her family spent nearly two years without health insurance.
Kathleen is active in her community. She serves on the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission and the Mississippi River Parkway Commission. She served on the boards of the Buffalo County Agricultural Fair Association and the Buffalo County Farm Bureau.
Kathleen is the eldest of five children. Both her parents served in the US Air Force. Her father was a member of the Laborer’s Union, her mother a registered nurse.