Saturday, April 25, 2009
sponsored by Graue Inc.

Quinn turns to familiar faces to run state government

Send a link to a friend

[April 25, 2009]  SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- Suddenly handed the job of running Illinois government, Pat Quinn has turned to familiar faces to build a new administration.

InsuranceHe brought along aides from the lieutenant governor's office, recruited old friends and called on people who worked for him during his single term as state treasurer. So far, Quinn has brought in only a couple of relative strangers.

This strategy allowed the new governor to start work quickly under incredibly challenging circumstances and to be certain of the loyalties of key aides. But it also raises questions: Do the members of Team Quinn have the experience to tackle the state's many problems? Do they have the independence to tell their boss when he's about to make a mistake?

He picked a 29-year-old with no background in law enforcement or management to oversee the troubled Illinois State Police. And the Democrat filled the key post of chief of staff with the head of the advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children -- someone who understands state government but certainly isn't a Springfield insider who knows where all the bodies are buried.

Quinn says he has compiled a list of promising job candidates he has met over the years and is calling on them to fill key jobs. So far, his choices include relatively few minorities and some aides to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was ousted from office in January.

"There's going to be a lot of people brought into government ... and they're going to be individuals of high character and ability," Quinn said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "They may not be, quote, political -- the usual suspects perhaps -- but I think voters are looking for fresh air in our government.

Since taking office Jan. 29 after Blagojevich's impeachment, Quinn has made about 20 major staffing decisions, from the person who handles his daily schedule to the head of the Department of Transportation.


Fifteen of the people he hired have previously worked for him, either in the lieutenant governor's office or the treasurer's office. Others are longtime friends or, in the case of new Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, a state legislator Quinn has known for years. Only two could be considered unfamiliar to Quinn: Theodore Chung, general counsel, and Jonathon Monken, state police director.

"I have a list of people right now who I think are excellent leaders, men and women of high ideals, excellent enthusiasm," Quinn said. "If there is a need for someone to fulfill a job, then I refer to my list and call upon them."

So far, Quinn has given most of the top jobs to white men.

Seven of his hires are women, racial minorities or both. They include Quinn's general counsel and policy director, but most are in second-tier jobs such as deputy chief of staff or scheduler.

The Illinois Association of Minorities in Government calls it "a huge concern" that women and minorities haven't been more prominent among Quinn's appointments.


"Minorities across this state have a lot of experience, and we think that experience should be reflected in his administration," said Jonathan Lackland, the association's executive director.  "Those are individuals who can come in and help him see things differently."

Quinn sounded pained by the criticism.

"Well, I don't know how they can say that if they take a look at the people I've brought in and intend to bring in," he said.

[to top of second column]

Auto Sales

Despite his fierce criticism of Blagojevich, Quinn is making use of his predecessor's personnel.

Jack Lavin, head of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under Blagojevich, has been named chief operating officer under Quinn. Another DCEO executive under Blagojevich has been promoted to run the agency, and most other agencies are still being run by the people Blagojevich appointed.

Quinn is also taking advice from two of the architects of the Blagojevich budgets that helped destroy the state's financial health. John Filan, Blagojevich's former budget director, is a longtime Quinn friend who is advising the new governor. And Blagojevich's last budget director, Ginger Ostro, has kept her job under Quinn.


He defended using Blagojevich's budget team, saying they weren't the ones setting policy. "I can't criticize someone who may be working on the budget and maybe the boss made policy decisions I strongly disagreed with," Quinn said.

Quinn is vague on how he decides when it's appropriate to hold onto someone from the administration of his disgraced predecessor.

"I'm going to evaluate each person in a key spot. If I find them someone who needs to be replaced, that will happen," Quinn said.  "If a person is honest and a person of integrity and they're doing their job, I think those are public servants."

Quinn has a reputation for being a longtime advocate for military personnel and their families. Now he's appointed two 29-year-old veterans with little government experience to run agencies -- state police and veterans' affairs. He explains his decision by pointing to their leadership in the military and their willingness to serve the country.

The lawmakers responsible for reviewing appointments to state agencies generally give Quinn high marks.

Sen. Antonio Munoz, chairman of the Committee on Executive Appointments, says his only concern is that Monken lacks the necessary experience to run the state police. Otherwise, Quinn's appointees seem to be "really nice," the Chicago Democrat said.

Sen. Dan Rutherford, a Republican on the same committee, said Quinn deserves to have the Cabinet he wants unless someone is clearly unsuited for the job. So far, the appointees seem smart and qualified, he said.

Rutherford doesn't fault Quinn for turning to familiar faces as he tries to build an administration on the fly.

"I guess if I were in that situation, I would do somewhat the same," he said.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching and Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law and Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health and Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor