Brunsvold speaks on IDNR ``professional’’

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Exactly “professional what?” needs to head the IDNR, Joel Brunsvold wonders.

I think what the former IDNR director had to say Monday is worth hearing.

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Here he answered question at a conference in May, 2004.

First the background.

Brunsvold was co-founder of the bi-partisan Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and a long-time Democratic leader in the Illinois House. Before he became IDNR director for three years during the first term of Gov. Blagojevich, who was booted out of office on Thursday.

Brunsvold is not some pie in the sky idealist. He understands how politics are done in Illinois, and is currently a lobbyist

And God bless him, but I think Brunsvold is sick of hearing how the IDNR director should be a “natural resources professional” as Pat Quinn put it in his first news conference as Illinois’ latest governor.

“Professional what?” Brunsvold exclaimed Monday in a phone interview.

“As I told you before, we have a 100 biologists over there. I never took a sample of water. You don’t need to be a biologist or chemist.

“It is a PR and an administrative job.”

At least on some level, I heartily agree with that. So I asked what he thought was more important.

“PR is probably more important,”

Not that an outdoors background doesn’t matter. My first extended chat with Brunsvold was on a pheasant hunt.

“I was a science teacher, and an outdoorsman. That helps. I am not saying that doesn’t help.

“But it is more important being somebody who can get out and meet the public and put staff together as an administrator.”

And develop a relationship with the General Assembly.

That moved our chat into an interesting area.

Brent Manning, the outstanding former IDNR director, justly named to the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame during Brunsvold’s term.

Make no mistake, a lot of this talk about a wildlife or natural resources professional to head the IDNR comes from Manning, who in fact was a biologist before heading the then DOC for former Gov. Edgar.

“I liked [Manning] very well,” Brunsvold said. “But the first thing he had to do to learn the political ends. As he went through the 12 years, he probably became the most political of directors.”

I think that is one of the things most forgotten or conveniently overlooked about Manning, currently executive director of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. By the end, Manning was very politically savvy.

In fact, after he left, there were whispers he might be pushed to run for Lieutenant Governor. In my humble view, he would have been a smarter choice to run for Lt. Gov. than the right-wing candidates the GOP selected instead.

But that just illustrates that heading the IDNR is a political job. I think Brunsvold is dead on, the political end of the IDNR head may be more important than the wildlife professional end.

As Brunsvold put it, “Those senators and reps make a lot of calls over to the agency. Then you have to go over there and pass your budget.”

That’s the reality in Illinois. Even with Quinn as governor, that will be the reality.

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