Herald-Whig View

Pritzker making wise staff choices from start

Posted: Mar. 17, 2019 12:20 am

IN OFFICE for just over two months now, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been hard at work tackling myriad problems facing the state.

Those problems were well-known to the billionaire entrepreneur before he threw his hat into the race, and he campaigned largely on his ability to build successful organizations.

His work is rightly slow-going. While some lawmakers and other media outlets have expressed concern about low staffing levels in the governor's office, Pritzker has made important strides in building a team of officials to take on the challenge of correcting the state's course. That is the prerogative executives in government and business enjoy.

Among the first steps Pritzker took was appointing four deputy governors to make sure the state's various agencies meet goals set forth by the administration and maintain forward progress. The four deputies Pritzker has picked -- Sol Flores will oversee human service agencies, Dan Hynes will oversee budget and economic development, Jesse Ruiz will oversee education and Christian Mitchell will oversee a capital bill and other things -- come to their jobs with impressive track records of success in government and the private sector.

They all were wise and prudent choices, and we applaud the governor for their selection. We also applaud the directive he has given them to allow no bureaucratic barriers to prevent the advancement of progress among the agencies that will answer to them.

Of course, they ultimately will answer to Pritzker. We think his reorganization of the executive branch will streamline processes in a state known for becoming burdened by commissions and committees

The state's problems can't be pushed any further down the road. Creating a core leadership group that is able to build a team of administrators and employees who can be productive from the start will reap huge rewards moving forward.

Those appointments are not the only wise picks Pritzker has made. Selecting former state Sen. John Sullivan to lead the Department of Agriculture was a home run. The farmer and former lawmaker knows firsthand the challenges facing farmers today, as well as how to be sure those challenges are addressed in the statehouse.

There clearly was no better choice for that job.

We also applaud the pick of Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat state representative from Aurora and a U.S. Army veteran, to lead the Department of Veterans' Affairs. She is an excellent choice.

We have seen her during visits to the Illinois Veterans Home here, how she interacts with residents and staff and genuinely listens to and cares about what they have to say.

We urge their swift approval by the state Senate.

Speaking of the Illinois Veterans Home, another choice we feel would be easy to make would be the selection of Troy Culbertson to remain at the helm as superintendent of the home.

This is a position that traditionally has been given to a political appointee, but in the wake of the home's recent history of crises, a professional appointee is needed.

Culbertson should be that appointee.

Since he was appointed in August 2016 after a 2015 outbreak of Legionella bacteria that resulted in more than 50 illnesses and led to at least 12 deaths at that point, Culbertson has led the abatement efforts that have stemmed the tide of illnesses at the Veterans Home.

More important, he has fostered a feeling of family at the home among residents and staff that had been lost in the past, winning over local veterans groups along the way.

He is the professional that our veterans need, deserve and earned through their service.

Pritzker had the chance to see that atmosphere during a visit to the home on Thursday. That visit, two months into his administration, showed us the governor has a genuine concern, not just for the Veterans Home, but for the region as a whole. There are a number of much-needed projects on the horizon, and we will need the governor's support to make them happen.

A new bridge at Quincy, four-laning Ill. 57 south from Quincy to the Interstate 172 interchange, finishing the remaining two lanes for the Macomb Bypass and work on the Mid-America Intermodal Authority Port all are key to the region's economic success, and support from the new governor would be invaluable.

Pritzker in our meetings seems to think differently than some previous governors. A true entrepreneur, he does not appear to be the party-first-variety Democrat, but rather one who balances his progressive stances with a practical approach.

The state's future will be rocky with problems and rightly pitted with intense policy debates. While we do not see eye-to-eye with the governor on some policies, we think Pritzker's wisdom in proceeding cautiously and selectively has set up both his administration and the state for success.

We welcome in good faith the debates ahead, and we look forward to more capable, professional selections to help lead the Land of Lincoln forward.