Governor Jim Edgar Project Interviews
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Governor Jim Edgar Project Interviews
Jim Edgar served as the Governor of Illinois from 1991 to 1999, restoring the state's fiscal health during his first term, and concentrating on educational and other reform issues during his second term. Before reaching the pinnacle of Illinois government, he served as Secretary of State from 1981 to 1991. His retirement from public office in 1999 marked thirty years of state government service. During this extensive interview series, Governor Edgar provides a detailed overview of Illinois' colorful and often tumultuous political history from 1968 through 2010.
Former Illinois Governor (1991-1999)
Mark Boozell served for over two decades in both the legislative and executive branches of Illinois government. Most of that time he worked for Jim Edgar, first as a legislative liaison while Edgar was Secretary of State, then in a variety of positions when Edgar was elected governor in 1991, including another tour as legislative liaison. Boozell served as Edgar's Chief of Staff during his final year as Governor
Rich Bradley started his life-long career in radio while still in college in the early 1960s, and in 1974 helped create a public radio station at Sangamon State University (renamed the University of Illinois - Springfield in 1995). He served as the news director for the NPR affiliated station for thirty years, and is considered the father of the Illinois Public Radio Network. During his tenure, he covered the administrations of four governors, from Gov. Jim Thompson through Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Kirk Brown served with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) from its creation in 1972 to his retirement in 2002. He spent twelve of his thirty years as IDOT Secretary, serving under governors Jim Edgar and George Ryan. The agency faced many key issues during his leadership, including the Great Flood of 1993.
Janis Cellini served in Illinois state government for over twenty years, most notably as Personnel Director for Secretary of State Jim Edgar and then as Director of Personnel and Labor Relations during his years as governor. From 1982-1999, Cellini dealt extensively with Republican County chairmen on patronage issues, essentially serving as Edgar's 'patronage chief.'
Upon graduating from Western Illinois University, Kirk Dillard worked as a legislative
Brenda Edgar is the wife of former Governor Jim Edgar. Born Brenda Smith in Tuscola, Illinois, she met her future husband at Eastern Illinois University in 1966. Married on April 21, 1967, she raised two children while helping her husband with his political career, first as Secretary of State from 1981-1991 and then as governor. In 1991, Mrs. Edgar became the First Lady of Illinois, where she took on adoption and children and women's issues as her special passion.
Fred Edgar is the older brother of former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar. Fred, Jim, and oldest brother Tom grew up together in Charleston, Illinois, in a single parent household after their father was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1953. Despite that, the brothers enjoyed a normal childhood, and Fred has been an ardent supporter of Jim throughout his political career.
Governor Jim and Mrs. Brenda Edgar talk about their long life together, much of it in the public eye as Jim worked his way up the political ladder, first as Student Body President at Eastern Illinois University, then through an unsuccessful legislative campaign in 1974, and a successful campaign in 1976. The two discuss Jim's selection as the legislative liaison for Governor Jim Thompson, and Jim's surprising appointment as the Secretary of State in 1980. They shared several anecdotes about the campaign trail, and about their life together as Governor and First Lady from 1991 through January, 1999.
In 1979, George Fleischli, a former teacher and coach, began working in Illinois state government with the Department of Conservation. He served for the Secretary of State Jim Edgar as his Director of Physical Services, and followed Governor Edgar into his gubernatorial administration, serving as an Executive Assistant and overseeing several key state departments and boards.
From 1992 to 1998, Andy Foster served in a variety of positions for Governor Jim Edgar, including the Executive Director of Citizens for Edgar, travel coordinator and traveling aide, campaign manager for Edgar's 1994 campaign, and Deputy Chief of Staff. Of particular interest are Foster's memories of the 1994 reelection campaign, in which Governor Edgar won a landslide victory with over sixty percent of the popular vote.
Allen Grosboll has enjoyed a successful career in Illinois politics, starting in 1973 as an intern with the Illinois House Republicans. In 1981, he was selected by Secretary of State Jim Edgar to serve as the Director of Motor Vehicles. After becoming Deputy Secretary of State in 1984, he followed Edgar when he was elected governor in 1990, working as an executive assistant, monitoring several government agencies, and playing a key role in conservation issues and the Flood of 1993.
Neil Hartigan grew up politically in the Democratic Party machine of the 1960s, a rising star in the party. In 1972, at the age of 34, Hartigan became the youngest lieutenant governor in the nation. A major political force in Illinois, he later served as Attorney General for two terms before running in a tight race for governor in 1990. Since then, he has served as Chairman of the World Trade Center Illinois and as a judge on the Illinois Appellate Court.
Carter Hendren, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, has enjoyed a successful career in Illinois politics. Hendren ran two successful campaigns for Jim Edgar, the first in 1982 for Secretary of State and then, in 1990, a tight Governor's race against Attorney General Neil Hartigan. Hendren also served as the Chief of Staff for Illinois State Senate Minority Leader James 'Pate' Phillip (1987-2003).
After graduating from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1968, Arnold Kanter spent over twenty years practicing law for the U.S. Attorney's office and various private law firms. A Chicago native, Kanter used his intimate knowledge of the city to lead Jim Edgar's 1990 campaign efforts there. When Governor Edgar took office in 1991, he named Kanter as chief counsel for his administration. Kanter served in this role until his resignation in late 1992.
As a reporter for various radio stations and a statewide radio network for forty years, Ben Kiningham's beat was the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield. He covered gubernatorial administrations from Dan Walker to George Ryan, as well as the Illinois legislature and various state agencies.
Bob Kustra served as a Illinois state legislator throughout the 1980s, then shared the ticket with Jim Edgar and was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1990. In 1994 he briefly considered a move to talk radio, but stayed on throughout Edgar's second term, helping the governor with policy issues, including higher education reform, conservation of the Illinois River, and Project Success.
Bill Lair, a sports reporter for the Mattoon Journal-Gazette and Charleston Times Courier, first met Jim Edgar at his local church. Lair and Edgar had attended Eastern Illinois University at the same time, but Lair only knew of Edgar as the Student Body President. After Edgar's failed campaign for the state legislature in 1974, Bill and his wife, Marty, followed Edgar's political career closely.
Mike Lawrence began his journalistic career in the mid-1960s, spending much of it with the
Tom Livingston grew up in LaGrange, Illinois, and attended the University of Illinois during the late 1980s, performing as Chief Illiniwek at sporting events for his last two years. Upon graduation, he immediately began working on Jim Edgar's gubernatorial campaign, and stayed on in the administration, first as Edgar's travel aid for two years, then two years as his scheduler. Following Edgar's reelection, Livingston moved to Edgar's policy staff.
Gary MacDougal started his adult life in business, and began his own company in 1969 (Mark Controls Corporation).In 1987 he retired from a very successful business career to pursue a different passion - addressing the seemingly intractable problems of poverty in America. In 1991 newly elected Governor Jim Edgar asked MacDougal to head up the Task Force on Human Services Reform. MacDougal harnessed his energy and passion with his business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit to first understand the underlying problems of poverty, then recommend a revamping of Illinois's welfare system. The reforms were remarkably successful.
After graduating from Eastern Illinois University with a Master's degree in 1976, Brent Manning spent nearly a decade working with Illinois Central Industries on a expansive range of environmental issues. Manning then worked for several years with Ducks Unlimited before being chosen by newly elected Governor Jim Edgar to head the Department of Conservation. Manning worked on a wide array of issues and projects during his tenure, including a Conservation Congress, Conservation 2000, several major land acquisitions, and the design and construction of the headquarters for the newly created Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Mike McCormick is the long-time personal assistant to former Governor Jim Edgar. After he helped manage Edgar's 1994 reelection campaign, he became the governor's personal assistant. His duties include helping with scheduling; coordinating events, meetings, and activities; and serving as an intermediary with other key staff.
From 1976-2003, Jess McDonald served four governors of Illinois, first as the Director of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, and then as the Director of the Department of Child and Family Services. While director of the DCFS, he dramatically increased the number of adoptions and improved the overall service and management of the agency, receiving numerous state and federal awards for his efforts.
Dawn Clark Netsch was elected as an Illinois State Senator in 1972 from the city of Chicago, and for the next ten years was a major player in the yearly battles over the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Illinois Senate. She was a strong supporter of the amendment, and talks at length about her leadership role for the pro-ERA in the Illinois Senate, and her disappointment over its ultimate defeat in 1982.
Felicia Norwood grew up in Camilla, Georgia with a burning ambition to excel, despite the grim economic realities of her African-American family. Just one year after she earned a law degree from Yale Law School, she accepted a position in newly elected Governor Jim Edgar's administration as an executive assistant, with oversight over human services issues.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Taylor Pensoneau was in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention which occurred from August 26 through August 29. He was on the scene for many of that convention's most dramatic events, reporting on events both inside the convention center and on the rioting in the streets, especially in Grant Park. Pensoneau was on hand when the Yippies nominated a pig for president, when Senator Abe Ribicoff accused Mayor Daley of using Gestapo tactics against protesters, and for the violent outbursts between the protesters and the Chicago police on Wednesday night, August 28.
Born in Arkansas and raised in Tennessee, Howard Peters moved to Illinois in 1969 to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. In 1971, he began working at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, Illinois, and over the next twenty years stayed with the IL Department of Corrections, steadily moving up the ranks. In 1990, while serving as warden at the Pontiac Maximum Security Prison, newly elected Governor Jim Edgar selected him as the Director of the Department of Corrections. He later served as Edgar’s Deputy Chief of Staff and became the first Secretary of Human Services.
Jim Reilly graduated from the University of Chicago law school in 1972 and joined a practice in Jacksonville, IL, thereafter, quickly becoming city attorney. In 1976, Reilly was elected to the Illinois legislature where he forged a strong friendship and professional association with Jim Edgar. In 1983, Governor Jim Thompson selected Reilly to serve as his Chief of Staff, a position he retained through 1989. Reilly also served as Governor Jim Edgar's Chief of Staff during the 1994 election campaign.
A graduate of Loyola University and Boston College, Gene Reineke served for eight years in the Gov. Jim Thompson administration. In 1983 Reineke began working as a scheduler for Governor Thompson, and soon moved up the ladder, first as Thompson’s director of Public Affairs in 1985, then director of Thompson’s ambitious Build Illinois project in 1986, and also as Thompson's Director of Personnel from 1987-1988. He spent the last two years in the administration as the director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
J. William 'Bill' Roberts, after years of experience as a state's attorney and U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, served as Governor Jim Edgar's chief legal counsel from 1995 to 1997. During that time, he helped Edgar with important issues such as education funding reform, the state's fight to keep Chicago's Meigs Field open, the commutation of Guinevere Garcia's death sentence, and the administration's response to the MSI scandal.
Philip Rock served as an Illinois State Senator representing the 8th District in Chicago for over twenty years. From 1979-1993, he was the Senate's top Democrat, serving as the President of the Senate longer than anyone in the history of Illinois. Of particular interest are Rock's discussions of his relationship with Governor Edgar's administration and his impressions of other key legislative leaders of that time.
Stephen Schnorf, a native of Charleston, IL, graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1966 and went on to teach history for several years. Following a series of jobs with non-profit organizations and work on all of Jim Edgar’s campaigns for state representative, Schnorf joined Secretary of State Edgar’s office in 1981. He worked with Edgar for the next sixteen years, serving in various capacities, including policy director and budget director during Edgar’s governorship.
Bernie Schoenburg began his journalistic career with the Bloomington Pantagraph and the Associated Press before taking a job as the Illinois statehouse reporter for the Springfield State Journal-Register in 1990. During his career he has covered the Jim Edgar, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich administrations
Sherry and Earl Struck first met Jim Edgar when they became neighbors in Springfield, Illinois in 1981. In 1990 Edgar asked Sherry to work on his campaign, and following the election she served as Governor Edgar's personal assistant for his entire eight year administration. In that capacity, she performed a myriad of duties and responsibilities, including screening visitors and handling all of the governor's personal correspondence.
William 'Tony' Sunderman met former governor Jim Edgar in the third grade where the two formed a friendship that has lasted throughout their lives. Sunderman and Edgar grew up in the same neighborhood in Charleston, Illinois, went to college together at Eastern Illinois University, and have maintained a strong relationship into their adult lives. Sunderman, a graduate of the University of Illinois law school, served on the state's Judicial Inquiry Board from 1998 to 2006, including several years as its chairman.
All it took was a little encouragement from a college professor to ignite a highly successful career in Illinois government for Joan Walters. After working on state government reorganization, she joined Governor Jim Thompson's transition team and later as a legislative liaison. In 1981, she was selected by then Secretary of State Jim Edgar to be his Chief of Staff, serving in this capacity until 1986. In 1991 she became Governor Edgar's Budget Director at a time when the state struggled to fill a $1 billion deficit. After succeeding in that, she later became the Director of Public Aid.
Ken Zehnder began his political work on the George H.W. Bush 1980 primary bid in Illinois, then spent the next eighteen years working with Jim Edgar, first as Secretary of State Edgar's scheduler, and following Edgar's successful bid for the governorship in 1990, as the Governor's assistant for Boards and Commissions. In 1995 Zehnder moved to the Department of Revenue, where he soon was appointed as the director.
Jim Edgar was a frequent target for Mike Thompson, the political cartoonist for the Springfield