Governor Jim Thompson Project Interviews
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Governor Jim Thompson Project Interviews
Illinois's governor from January, 1977 to January, 1991
Find interviews in our other Oral History Collections that relate to Governor Thompson's Administration!
Gregory Baise started as a volunteer for Jim Thompson in 1976, when Baise was just out of college and Thompson was running for Governor for the first time. Over the next fourteen years Baise served in the Thompson administration in a variety of capacities, first as the Governor's travel aid until 1979, then as his scheduler, and in 1981 as Thompson's Personnel Director, responsible for patronage hiring. In 1984 he managed Ronald Reagan's campaign in Illinois, and in 1985 Thompson appointed him as Director of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
In 1978 the Democratic Party selected Michael Bakalis, the young State Comptroller, to run for governor against 'Big' Jim Thompson, a popular young governor with just two years in office. Bakalis had become involved in Illinois Democratic politics in the late 1960s while he was a young faculty member at Northern Illinois University. In 1970 the Democratic Party slated him to run for Superintendent of Public Education, and he won after a spirited campaign. In 1976 he was elected as the State Comptroller. In 1978 Bakalis ran as a fiscal conservative and social moderate, but the race was more about image than issues, and he managed to pull only 40 percent of the vote against Thompson’s 59 percent.
Dave Bourland was working in the Winchester Framing Company in 1976 when he first met gubernatorial candidate Jim Thompson . The two quickly forged a friendship based on their mutual passion for art, antiques, and architecture. When Thompson was elected governor later that year, he asked Bourland to appraise the artwork and furnishings in the executive mansion. The two worked closely together over the next fourteen years as Gov. Thompson's fascination for antiques grew. In 1983 Bourland began working in the mansion full time as the mansion curator. He has remained in that post until the present, except for a period when he worked for Secretary of State George Ryan from 1991 through 1998.
Richard Carlson began his service in Illinois State government as a legislative staff intern in 1966, then worked as a staff assistant during the state's Constitutional Convention in 1970. He began working for the Gov. Jim Thompson administration in 1977, first on the Governor's program staff, where he worked on executive reorganization and on environmental policy issues. In 1981 Thompson appointed him to be the director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, a position he held until 1988 when he moved to the private sector.
Julie Cellini was appointed to serve as the the Chair of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency by Governor Jim Thompson, and served as its chair from its creation in 1985 to 2012. During that time, she was the driving force behind the creation of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and was involved in every aspect of its development. The Library opened in 2004, and the Museum opened in 2005 to world-wide acclaim. IHPA oversaw some 50 historic sites throughout Illinois.
Barbara Flynn Currie, a liberal Democrat from the Hyde Park district of Chicago, has represented that Chicago neighborhood in the Illinois House of Representatives from January, 1979 to the time of this posting in 2017. Even though she was relatively new to the legislature during the years when the Equal Rights Amendment was debated in the Illinois legislature every year, she was an eloquent and influential supporter for ERA. This session of her interview discussed the fate of ERA in the Illinois House from her first year in 1979 to its ultimate defeat in the legislature in 1982.
Julian D'Esposito served as Governor Jim Thompson's chief counsel from 1977 to 1981 and as his director of staff, during the early years of Thompson's long tenure as Governor. Among the issues he dealt with during this period were the Thompson Proposition, the governor's handling of sentencing appeals and the Chicago school funding crisis of 1980. Following this, D’Esposito continued to be involved in governmental service, serving as a member of Thompson’s Tax Reform Commission as well as outside counsel to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA).
Kirk Dillard, a 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate, has been extensively involved in Illinois government since the late 1970s, including a stint as Governor Jim Thompson's legislative liaison. Dillard helped with Jim Edgar's run for governor, then served as Governor Edgar's Chief of Staff from 1991-1994. He left to make a successful run for the Illinois Senate.
Jim Edgar served as Governor Jim Thompson's legislative liaison from 1979 to 1980. Following the 1980 election, Governor Thompson appointed Edgar to serve as Secretary of State, the position vacated by Alan Dixon, who was headed to the U.S. Senate. For the next ten years of the Thompson administration Edgar served as Secretary of State, winning two elections and implementing significant legislation, including DUI laws and driver’s insurance legislation.
Ty Fahner began his career in public service as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the early 1970s while Jim Thompson served as the U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois. In 1977, newly elected Governor Thompson selected Fahner to serve as the director of law enforcement until 1979. In 1980 Thompson selected Fahner to serve as attorney general to fill the vacancy caused by Bill Scott’s conviction for tax evasion. He was defeated by democrat Neil Hartigan in the 1982 election, and returned to private practice, working for the law firm Mayer Brown.
Kim Fox began her association with the Gov. Jim Thompson administration in 1977 while helping to plan the Governor's first inaugural ball, and spent the next twenty-seven years with Thompson, steadily moving through a series of positions of increasing responsibility, including assistant advance, director of advance, scheduling, and executive director of the governor’s fundraising organization, 'Citizens for Thompson.' Along the way, she occasionally organized or assisted with major events for other leading figures, including Ronald Reagan and Barbara Bush, and the National Governor’s Association convention in 1989.
Dave Gilbert was a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1975 when Jim Thompson asked him to become his press secretary early in his first run for governor. Gilbert continued as Thompson's press secretary for the next ten years and three gubernatorial election campaigns, helping to craft the public face of one of Illinois's most colorful and popular governors. Gilbert discusses the 1982 gubernatorial campaign against Senator Adlai Stevenson III in detail, a race that was mired in allegations of vote fraud and was decided by the IL Supreme Court only a week before Gov. Thompson's inauguration.
Bob Kjellander of Springfield, Illinois has spent a lifetime involved in Republican politics, both at the state and national level. He worked in Governor Jim Thompson's legislative liaison office in 1977, and in 1978 moved to the governor's personnel office, where he managed patronage appointments. Two years later he became head of Gov. Thompson’s legislative liaison office. In late 1981 the governor asked him to run his 1982 gubernatorial campaign, with former Senator Adlai Stevenson III as Thompson’s Democratic opponent. He then left the Thompson administration and began a consulting business, but remained active in Republican politics as a fund raiser and supporter. Since 1998 he has managed George W. Bush's Midwest campaign for president in 2000, served as Republican National Committee treasurer from 2005 to 2007, and served as co-chair for the Republican National Convention in 2008.
Ann Lousin earned a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1968, and the following year worked as a research assistant for Illinois's Constitutional Convention, a subject that has fascinated her ever since. She has written extensively on the subject, and is regarded as the premier authority on ConCon. In 1970 Lousin was selected to serve first as a staff assistant and later as the parliamentarian in the Illinois House of Representations at a time when W. Robert Blair (Republican) was the Speaker of the House. In 1975, she began a long and distinguished career as professor at the John Marshall Law School. Governor Jim Thompson selected Lousin to chair the Civil Service Commission, a position she held until 1983.
After many years working in the aerospace industry and NASA, Dr. Robert Mandeville began a second career working in the Illinois Bureau of the Budget, first for Governor Richard Ogilvie in the early 1970s. From 1977 through 1990 Dr. Mandeville served as Governor Jim Thompson's Budget Director, successfully steering the state's budget through the deep recession of the early 1980s, and into the boom years of the later 1980s, when Gov. Thompson launched his ambitious Build Illinois initiative.
Jeffrey Miller spent ten years working in the Illinois Department of Public Aid, including from 1978 to 1983 as its director during the Governor Jim Thompson administration. In 1983 he moved to the governor's executive staff, where he headed a new planning office. In 1987, Miller became Governor Thompson's chief of staff, a position he held until the end of the Thompson administration in January, 1991. Miller talks at length about welfare reform efforts in the 1970s and 1980s, and offers insights into Thompson's style of leadership.
Susan Mogerman served as an assistant press secretary for Governor Jim Thompson from 1982 to 1989 when Governor Thompson asked Susan to move to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, an agency in which Gov. Thompson was especially interested. Mogerman discusses Gov. Thompson's campaign and leadership style, and about his razor-thin victory in the gubernatorial election of 1982. She also discusses many of the other figures in the Thompson administration, to include her boss, Press Secretary Dave Gilbert.
Drawing on his work as an aide in Governor Richard Ogilvie’s administration and as California Congressman George Miller’s first campaign manager, Phil O’Connor joined Gov. Jim Thompson's administration in 1977, soon working as his director of insurance. In 1982, O'Connor oversaw Thompson’s campaign against Adlai Stevenson III, helping to turn around the campaign. He then served as the chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission, where he strongly promoted deregulation of the utility industry before leaving the administration in 1985 for a career in the private sector.
Jim Reilly graduated from the University of Chicago law school in 1972 and joined a practice in Jacksonville, IL, where he soon became city attorney. In 1976, Reilly was elected to the Illinois legislature. In 1983, Governor Jim Thompson selected Reilly to serve as his Chief of Staff, a position he retained through 1989.
A graduate of Loyola University and Boston College, Gene Reineke served for nearly twenty years in the public policy arena. Reineke worked as Governor Jim Edgar’s Chief of Staff and as a member of his cabinet. He currently acts as the Chief Operating Officer for Hill and Knowlton, a global public relations company
Tim Romani served as a traveling aide to Governor Jim Thompson from 1984 to 1985, an experience that changed the trajectory of Romani's life. Gov. Thompson affectionately referred to his traveling aids as bag boys, and Tim provides fascinating insights into both the governor and the duties of the position. As a result of that experience, Tim went on to work on planning for the new White Sox stadium in the late 1980s, and from there launched his own business, the ICON Venue Group, which specializes in project management for sports venues and entertainment developments.
John Schmidt cut his political teeth during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago when he helped revise the party's rules for selecting its convention delegates. He then returned to a private law practice. In both 1982 and 1986 he served as legal counsel for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Adlai Stevenson, III. Following the 1982 election, when only 1,074 votes separated Stevenson from Gov. Jim Thompson, he unsuccessfully petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for a state-wide recount. In 1986 Schmidt helped Stevenson create a new party (the Solidarity Party) after the Democrat's Lt. Governor and Secretary of State candidates lost in the primary to Democratic candidates linked to Lyndon LaRouche. Schmidt was also influential in the renovation of Navy Pier, helping turn it into a major tourist destination.
Adlai Stevenson III, son of the Democratic candidate for President in 1952 and 1956, was a prominent political figure in his own right, having served as a U.S. Senator during the 1970s. But his ultimate goal was to serve as governor, and he made his first run for that office in 1982 against Governor 'Big' Jim Thompson. Stevenson lost by the thinnest of margins, and immediately contested the vote, alleging vote fraud in reliably Republican DuPage County. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled against him, and Thompson began his third term. Stevenson ran again in 1986, and his prospects looked good - until two Lyndon LaRouche candidates won in the Democratic primary. Stevenson had little choice but to run as an independent, and lost by a large margin.
In 1978, in the midst of a gubernatorial campaign, Samantha Jayne Thompson became the first child born to a sitting Illinois governor in seventy-two years. As such, Sam’s birth and childhood drew sustained media attention throughout 'Big' Jim Thompson's long tenure as governor. In this interview, Sam reflects on this attention and her experience growing up in the public eye. She also discusses controversy over her appearance on the campaign trail in the 1978, life in the Executive Mansion, her parents’ decision to enroll her in Chicago public schools, living with a protective detail, protests outside the family home, and meeting a host of famous and influential people.
Barney Turnock has spent most of his adult life working in various public health departments, including a position as deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Health. In 1985, he became Governor Jim Thompson's Director for the Department of Public Health. During the 1980s he dealt with a multitude of public health threats, including the emergence of the AIDS epidemic, a series of deaths due to cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules and a severe Salmonella outbreak.
Dan Webb was a small town boy from central Illinois who, after graduating from Loyola Law School, worked in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in the early 1970s while Jim Thompson served as the U.S. Attorney. A decade later, Thompson was governor and Webb was U.S. Attorney. In that position, Webb's office prosecuted scores of Cook County officials for vote fraud following the 1982 gubernatorial election. His office also prosecuted scores more in the Greylord political scandal case, a case that began before his tenure, and continued on after his departure for private practice in 1985.
Jim Thompson was new to politics when he launched his first campaign for governor in 1975. For those in the Chicago area, his was a familiar name. He was the U.S. Attorney who fought against public corruption, sending former Governor Otto Kerner to jail, along with scores of other public officials. As far as Thompson was concerned, it gave him the credentials to run for governor for a large and diverse state.