Leadership change likely with new governor

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With change in governor comes change in IDNR

August 21, 2002

Dale Bowman/Chicago Sun-Times

PRINGFIELD, Ill.--Pleading the Fifth said it all.

Brent Manning won't be back as director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources if Rod Blagojevich is elected governor, as seems likely.

Asked Monday at the annual Illinois outdoor writers briefing if he had spoken with either gubernatorial candidate, Manning said, "I plead the Fifth.''

Then he added, "I don't think I have ever spoken with [Blagojevich]. [As attorney general,] Jim Ryan was very helpful in working with us on tickets.''

Despite Manning's assertions otherwise, we hear the Ryan deal is done. If Ryan is elected, Manning will extend his 12-year reign as director of the IDNR (first as head of the Department of Conservation).

We've heard two names mentioned if Blagojevich is elected. One is Downstate representative Joel Brunsvold (D-Milan). The assistant majority whip chairs the bipartisan Illinois Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus. He would be a capable administrator, respected on both sides of the political aisle.

The other name is a political hack. (He's being bandied about as a scare tactic by those entrenched in the DNR hierarchy during a quarter century of Republican rule.)

The mud-slinging against Blagojevich--if you are a hunter, you've received plenty of innuendo--goes to the top of the current DNR. It's unbecoming but not surprising: Manning may be the most popular Republican in Illinois.

I'm glad some big donors in conservation are moving dollars toward Blagojevich. Communication must be kept open. The rabid campaign against Blagojevich by gun fanatics like the Illinois State Rifle Association only slams the door shut for those of us who own guns and hunt.

Besides, I relish a chance for a new regime, perhaps one that doesn't think Chicago outdoors is an oxymoron.

CAPITAL IDEA: Manning on Monday gave a tour of the partially completed, $31.7 million DNR building in Springfield. Some areas lack carpeting, the central artwork (which would make Freud proud) isn't flowing yet and the banks of the ponds need sodding. That can wait. The consolidation of the DNR into one building was much needed.

The design of conference rooms and offices stresses openness. Even Manning's office has glass walls on two sides. It's good symbolism.

"We are doing the public's business in the public eye,'' said Bruce Clark, capital development director.

Manning's office is stuffed with waterfowl mounts, a pair of shed elk antlers (from Wildlife Prairie Park), deer antlers, a pair of mounted owls, a mount of the first 50-inch muskie caught in Illinois and a stuffed chair won in a bass tournament.

"My wife calls it 'early American gauche,''' Manning said.

The building is located by Conservation World (eventually the two will be integrated) at the state fairgrounds. The building is built on an abandoned coal mine that took a $2 million cement fix.

"Eventually, you will come out and not see civilization,'' Clark said. "Our headquarters will literally be engulfed in the park.''

I recommend touring the lake-level gallery with original paintings of the duck and habitat stamps. The building eventually will offer drive-up service, and the ponds will have fishing.
 
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