Belt legacy felt among local Democrats

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Although she has not served as an officer in more than two years, the work Jeannine Belt did during her time on the Monroe County Democratic Central Committee is still being felt. 

“She is a very strong person, very knowledgeable, capable, smart and just a good person to have involved in anything,” said Jon Lewis, who met Belt over 20 years ago while serving in the Monroe County Democratic party. 

Belt joined the Monroe County Democrats over 20 years ago. 

She was encouraged to do so by Bill Thurston, who was President of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council. Thurston hoped Belt could strengthen ties between labor and Monroe County Democrats. 

He thought she could do that because Belt joined the Sheet Metal Workers Union when she was 19. At 25, she joined the United Food and Commercial Workers’ International Chemical Workers Union Council.

The Columbia woman also worked as a bargainer for the union representing Monsanto workers for more than 30 years. 

“She had the same characteristics there as she did as a Democratic precinct committeemen and Democratic party officer,” said Lewis, a Columbia resident. “She was resolute in her support. She is just a remarkable person.” 

For her efforts, Belt received several accolades, including being named one of the top 20 women in union organizing by the Berger-Marx Foundation. 

While she did all that, Belt also got involved with the local Democratic party. 

She served for more than 20 years in various leadership roles including treasurer, vice chairman and chairperson. 

In those roles, she originated the idea of an ad book as a fundraiser for the Democrats’ annual dinner, started the tradition of serving dinner and having a social hour before monthly meetings and helped found the annual Family Day. 

Belt served until 2017, retiring after two years as chairperson to spend more time with her family.

“She was very smart and dedicated,” Lewis said. “If she decided to do something, she did and there was just no stopping her because she was just that capable and that courageous to do things. 

“She was a very strong person who committed herself to the ideals of the democratic party, specifically in Monroe County. She was just an outstanding person to have on your side.”

For her work in the local Democratic organization, Belt was honored earlier this year with the Leroy Reitz Service Award at the annual Democratic dinner she founded. 

That award, which former Monroe County Commissioner Delbert Wittenauer also won, goes to a member of the central committee who has achieved the highest level of accomplishments. 

“It was appropriate,” Lewis said of Belt winning the award. “She’s the kind of person who should win it for all she’s done and all the effort she’s put in. No one was more deserving of it than her.” 

Given all her service, Lewis asked individuals to show their support for Belt because her health is worsening. 

She has had brain tumors for the last 10 years, but she now has more throughout her body and they are becoming more severe. 

“She has a good family and a good husband,” Lewis noted. “I think we can all pray for her, hope for the best and keep her in our thoughts and prayers.”

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