Former state Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, left the Illinois Department of Transportation at the end of 2017 and this week began what he calls his “dream job” as assistant director of the Department of Natural Resources.
The new job will have him in charge of land management, he said, overseeing state parks and thousands of acres of farmland as well as historic sites formerly under the old Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Work of the old IHPA is under DNR – except for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is its own agency.
The move also makes him assistant to a former House colleague he respects: DNR Director Wayne Rosenthal.
Rosenthal and Brauer were among central Illinois GOP lawmakers brought into the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner. Brauer was named assistant secretary of IDOT in early 2015, in Rauner’s first year in office.
Brauer, 63, said his pay would stay the same as at IDOT – just under $128,000 annually.
“I’ve always loved historic preservation,” Brauer said, noting that he co-chaired a historic preservation caucus in the legislature. That, along with his farming experience, he said, helps make this a job he has long sought.
“It is actually my dream job,” he said. “I’m very thankful to be able to be in this position.”
He said IDOT was “a wonderful place” with “wonderful people,” and he didn’t seem bothered that, as he recalled, somebody there said: “You’re giving up concrete for birds and bunnies.”
A likely Russia-based hack of thousands of voter-registration records at the State Board of Elections in 2016 helped lead to a new position at the agency – a public information officer.
And the person chosen to fill that spot is Matt Dietrich, 54, of Springfield. Matt is a former editorial page editor of The State Journal-Register. He also spent five years with the Reboot Illinois website, but was laid off as executive editor in April when, he said, “the owners decided to de-emphasize original content.”
Since July 1, Dietrich was with the Better Government Association mostly doing fact-checking work, as the BGA is now the home of PolitiFact Illinois.
“Leaving the BGA was a very difficult decision for me, but this job presented an opportunity to use the skills I had developed over 30 years in journalism in a new area,” Dietrich said. “I’ve been a heavy user of ISBE data for years – especially campaign finance data – and I like the idea of making access to that data more convenient.”
His new job, with initial salary of $90,000 annually, will have him be the media contact for the agency. He will also handle freedom-of-information requests and help redesign the website.
Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the board, said when news broke of the 2016 cyber-intrusion of the voter registration database, it seemed “different people were speaking on behalf of the agency.” He said the computer “inquiry” got access to 70,000 to 90,000 records, and while that did not affect any vote counts, such occurrences in Illinois and other states were concerning because people could “lose faith in the system.”
State Board of Elections Chairman Bill Cadigan of Winnetka and vice chairman John Keith of Springfield discussed the problem with staff, and ultimately the board authorized the new position and Dietrich got the job, Sandvoss said.
“His resume was very impressive,” Sandvoss said.
Condolences to friends and family of Jim Harry, a former secretary of the Illinois Senate who died Dec. 18 of natural causes. He was 77.
Harry worked in radio news before joining state government, working for then-Gov. Richard Ogilvie and later as secretary and assistant secretary of the Senate – depending which party was in power. He retired from the Senate in 2004.
While a Republican, Harry “loved working with people from both sides of the aisle,” said his son, Scott, newly named State Board of Education budget director after running the Governors Office of Management and Budget.
“He really had a love for the Capitol,” Scott Harry said of his father. “He not only loved the physical building, but he also loved all the people that he worked with. ... Both Republicans and Democrats ... always came up and just said, ‘Hey, your dad’s a great guy, really kind, a nice, fair person.”