Gov. Bruce Rauner should withdraw the nomination of Wayne Rosenthal to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
I think the nomination should be withdrawn because it breaks campaign promises by Rauner to have professionals head the IDNR. Others call for the nomination to be withdrawn or not confirmed because of connections and campaign contributions from energy groups, which the IDNR regulates, to Rosenthal.
It is a bad pick.
As one Republic insider in Illinois outdoors (that is almost a redundancy) put it to me, less than a day into Rauner’s administration, “This is the first broken campaign promise.” Other Republican insiders in the outdoors have been wondering why since the weekend, when word began filtering out that Rosenthal would be the pick.
The formal announcement that Rosenthal, who had just been elected to his third term as state representation, would head the IDNR, noted first here on Tuesday, came Friday, in a the press release from the governor’s office.
Already some are noting the campaign contributions from energy companies, which the IDNR regulates, to Rosenthal. See here.
My concern is that Rosenthal was a late add-on to what had been an impressive list of potential nominees. He did not belong on that good list of potential IDNR heads and he should not have the job.
That list included a couple people with international reputations in the world of conservation and outdoors in Charlie Potter and Brent Manning. And one with a long-time national reputation in Mike Conlin, not to mention a couple up-and-comers who went to other states are Manning left after his Hall-of-Fame run as IDNR director. And there were a couple former top Conservation Police Officers, who understand Springfield and the IDNR.
For various reasons, Manning was not going to take the job. Though I wonder if he could accept it as a volunteer role on a short basis to reorganize the IDNR. I do not know what the legalities of that would be. But it might be worth considering.
My understanding was that Potter had the job up until a few weeks ago when Rosenthal’s name mysteriously began to be floated.
And it was politics as usual in Springfield.
That is not saying that Rosenthal is not a nice guy or a capable representative or a good administrator. What I am saying and this is important, this is not the professional Rauner promised multiple times.
Here are the two campaign promises that I saved. I am sure there are others.
Potter held a friendly interview with his friend Rauner on Sept. 28 on “The Great Outdoors” on WGN-AM. After the interview, I relaxed about Rauner’s run for governor because it sure sounded like he was talking about Potter.
Potter would not have been my pick to head the IDNR, but he has the kind of resume from Delta Waterfowl and Max McGraw that makes him a good candidate. I did enough digging on Potter to know that professionals who worked for and with him said he let them do their jobs and created an environment where they could do their work. That pretty much describes what an IDNR head should do.
Click here to hear “The Great Outdoors” interview with Rauner. Note the graph below in the 14th minute.
When people are brought in for patronage reasons and crony reasons, not because they are highly qualified, not because they have deep expertise in hunting and fishing and biology and chemistry and natural resources management, it hurts the result and does not serve the taxpayers well. I will bring in people who are not related to our campaign and want to serve the people of Illinois as public servants and have expertise in the areas of the government we want them to oversee. I want experts in natural resources. I want people who are personally committed to enhancing the quality the outdoor experiences and opportunities in Illinois. The governor can drive that process. I will lead it and make sure it gets done.
“The governor can drive that process,” but obviously Rauner decided not to do so. Rosenthal is not one of those “experts in natural resources.”
And there was this nugget from a Q&A Steve Sarley did with former Gov. Pat Quinn and Rauner, as posted in the Kane County Chronicle on Oct. 31:
Rauner: Much like the rest of Pat Quinn’s government, IDNR has seen scandal after scandal. From a political hire taking campaign contributions from a regulated company, to a senior official who was given state-paid sick time to attend fishing tournaments, we have a crisis in management at the department. That has to change. I will appoint well-qualified leaders, and not the politically connected.
Rauner was responding to this Sarley question: “Please assess the performance of current Illinois Department of Resources Director Marc Miller.”
“Not the politically connected?” I guess something has changed in Rauner’s opinion in the past couple months.
Even more galling, in retrospect now that we have seen what Rauner is doing in the first few days in office , is Rauner’s answer to this Sarley question: “What is your vision for the future of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources?”
Rauner: My vision for the department is the same for all of our government agencies. We need responsive leaders who serve the public interest and not themselves. As an avid outdoorsman, I understand the importance of having professionals, and not political cronies, run IDNR. If we want to conserve and protect our state’s resources for future generations, we need to implement thoughtful and common-sense policies that will leave a positive legacy for years to come.
Let me emphasis this part of that answer: “As an avid outdoorsman, I understand the importance of having professionals, and not political cronies, run IDNR.” Quite apparently, Rauner does not understand it enough to have it a professional head the IDNR.
There is nothing in Rosenthal’s resume that says he deserves to head the IDNR, other than he has administrative ability. Here is his resume as noted on the press release from the governor’s office:
Name: Wayne Rosenthal
Position: Secretary – Department of Natural Resources
Governor Bruce Rauner announces he has nominated State Representative Wayne Rosenthal (R- 95th District) as the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Rep. Rosenthal is a retired Brigadier General from the Illinois Air National Guard and the owner of his family’s farm in Morrisonville.
Rep. Rosenthal’s experience spans more than 30 years in both the military and as a civilian. He was recently re-elected to his third term as a member of the House of Representatives. As a member of the House, he serves on eight committees, including Agriculture & Conservation, Energy and Veterans’ Affairs. Rep. Rosenthal is also the Chairman of the Downstate GOP Caucus.
In addition to his work in the General Assembly, Rep. Rosenthal is currently a Trustee on the Lincoln Land Community College Board of Trustees. Previously, he served on the Morrisionville Community School Unit District #1 for six years, and five of those years he served as the board’s Vice President.
Prior to working in the House, Rep. Rosenthal served in the Illinois Air National Guard, retiring at the rank of Brigadier General. He oversaw more than 500 enlisted personnel and officers, while managing a multi-million dollar budget and more than $500 million in assets.
Rep. Rosenthal is a life-long resident of Illinois and has owned his family’s farm for more than 20 years. His 800-acre grain farm has an emphasis on conservation. He also established a hunting and fishing preserve in Montgomery County. Rep. Rosenthal has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Sangamon State University.
- Illinois House of Representatives – 95th District (2010-Present)
- Lincoln Land Community College Trustee (2009-Present)
- Macoupin County Soil & Water Conservation District Director (2002-2010)
- Sangamon County Pheasants Forever District Director (2002-2009)
- Illinois Air National Guard (1971-2001)Retired Brigadier General
- Upper Macoupin Creek Planning Committee (2001-2003)
- Morrisonville Community Unit School District #1 Board of Education (1992-1998)Vice President (1993-1998)
- DeKalb/Pfizer Genetics, Regional Sales Manager (1976-1978)
- Christian County Farm Bureau
- American Legion Post #721
- Knights of Columbus Council #1152Grand Knight (1976-1978)
- Palmer-Morrisonville Recreation AssociationDirector (1987-Present)
- Sangamon State University, B.A. Mathematics (1974)
- Age: 64
- Hometown: Morrisonville
We deserve better.