Ryan Croke of Springfield, who was chief of staff to then-Gov. Pat Quinn, is the new chief of staff at the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Croke left a job as executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living to return to the state.
"I was honored to be asked by Secretary Grace Hou to be part of the DHS team," Croke said. "It's a great opportunity to make a lasting, positive impact across our state."
"In partnership with community organizations, DHS is fighting poverty, lifting up struggling families and supporting dignity for all people, including people with disabilities," Croke said. "This is a mission I deeply believe in."
Croke, 35, is being paid about $133,000 annually. After leaving the governor's office, he worked as associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois-Springfield before joining the network serving people with disabilities. The board chairman of that group, Mike Egbert, praised Croke's work there.
"In his tenure at INCIL, Ryan has made our network stronger than ever by improving home services options for consumers with disabilities, expanding independent living services for older blind residents, and increasing our exposure with the strength of his vision and relationships," Egbert said.
Croke grew up in Wheeling, the son of parents who were deaf from birth, and he has said American Sign Language was his first language. He studied communications and political science and got a master's degree in communications, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
While there was a five-way race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House from the 13th Congressional District in 2018, Sangamon County Democrats are betting early on the 2020 race.
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield has already announced her 2020 bid, and so far is the only candidate of her party. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, is expected to be unchallenged by his own party for another term.
Not waiting to see if any other Democrats enter the fray, Sangamon County Democrats endorsed Londrigan at their May committee call.
"The party is unified in our support and we believe that an early endorsement indicates the depth of the support she has in Sangamon County," said Springfield Ward 3 Alderwoman Doris Turner, who chairs the local party. "In her first campaign, Ms. Londrigan came extremely close to unseating the incumbent. She now has increased name recognition, momentum, and the voting public has a clear understanding of her position on the issues. We are looking forward to working extremely hard to elect her."
Meanwhile, Londrigan already has a campaign manager – 29-year-old Jacob Plotnick.
Plotnick, a native of Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, got a political science degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. He was finance director on a 2016 congressional primary campaign of Glenn Ivey of Maryland, and had a similar job for Terri Bonoff, a Minnesota Democrat who lost a general election for Congress in 2016. In 2017-18, he was Midwest candidate fundraising director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
"I've always had a special place in my heart for Illinois," Plotnick said. "After he was forced to leave Nazi Germany directly before World War II, my grandfather and his family settled in southern Illinois and he would tell me often about the kindness of the people he encountered while living here. When I met Betsy during the last election cycle, I was instantly impressed by her ability to connect with people and moved by her genuine concern for the problems that they faced."
Plotnick, who said his late grandfather had come to Carbondale, said he's excited to manage the campaign and "grateful for the hospitality of the people of Illinois."
It took 186 ballots for the Illinois Senate to choose then-38-year-old Tom Hynes as the chamber's president in 1977. The final vote came at 5:41 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in mid-February that year.
Yet, Hynes, who was first elected to the Senate in 1970, did not seek a second term as president. He won an election for Cook County assessor in 1978 – taking him out of the Senate and giving him the Chicago-based job he would stay in until 1997.
"He chose to run for assessor, knowing that he'd be giving up the Senate presidency," said one of his four children, Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, a former state comptroller. "He did it mainly to be closer to home. He had spent 8 years in Springfield at a time where all of his kids were at that young, impressionable age."
The elder Hynes died Saturday at age 80 from complications of Parkinson's disease.
"The last few years have been tough with Parkinson's," Dan Hynes said.
But while his father is now in a better place, his son said, he also leaves a legacy of service, which also included many years as 19th Ward Democratic committeeman in Chicago and on the Democratic National Committee.
"He was just a great role model," Dan Hynes said, "a beloved figure in Chicago and in the state, just widely respected as an honest, smart elected official."
He also, as it turns out, had a good sense of humor, which is nice to know, given that a newspaper I worked for during Hynes' tenure as Senate president made a rather memorable mistake concerning him.
On May 26, 1978, President Jimmy Carter addressed a joint session of the General Assembly. I was in the House press box, commuting from Bloomington for The Pantagraph, and a story I wrote about the visit was in the next day's paper. But on Page 1, there was a picture, taken from the House gallery by a photographer who did not check with me before returning to Bloomington and writing the caption.
"President Carter was introduced to the General Assembly Friday by House Speaker William A. Redmond, D-Bensenville," it said. "A Secret Service agent was between them. ..."
The "agent" was actually Senate President Hynes.
A copy of that newspaper was displayed on the wall of Hynes' 19th Ward office, his son said.
"He always had a good laugh at it," Dan Hynes said.
Condolences to the family.
Contact Bernard Schoenburg: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.