Newly installed Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner made a point during his election campaign in 2014 of promising that he’d appoint true professionals to his administration who actually know something about the agencies they run, instead of merely bringing in politically connected cronies with no concrete knowledge of or expertise in the practice of their administrations.
He seemingly lived up to that promise in his appointment of an actual farmer, Philip Nelson of Seneca, as secretary of the IL Dept of Agriculture last month. Nelson was the president of the IL Farm Bureau from 2003-13. (Unknown as of this writing are Nelson’s positions on environmental conservation, organic farming, sustainable food production, and urban farming. Stay tuned for a follow-up on that.)
However, another key leadership appointment related to the present health and future protection of Illinois’ natural environment is indicative of how Rauner is not fulfilling that pledge in other critical departments of the state’s government. While he opted for continuity in re-appointing Lisa Bonnett to the IL EPA directorship, he has nominated State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal (R, 95th Dist.) to the IL Department of Natural Resources position. Rosenthal is a central IL farmer and former military man who may well be a good administrator; but has no experience in environmental conservation, has been an energetic supporter of fracking in IL, and has taken campaign contributions from energy companies the last several years.
Given the many accomplished environmental professionals in our state who have leadership experience and acumen, this IDNR appointment is a huge disappointment for the people and natural ecosystems of Illinois. See this link for a detailed summary of Rauner’s appointments thus far.