Kurt Granberg named DNR director

January 16, 2009 at 06:40 PM

The long-rumored appointment of former Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Carlyle) as Director of the Department of Natural Resources is finally a reality.

The Associated Press reports Illinois hunting and fishingthat Gov. Blagojevich appointed Granberg to the top DNR job on Friday. Granberg, a 55-year-old Carlyle Democrat, was named to the $133,000-a-year post for a term ending January 2011.

Granberg was born June 16, 1953 in Breese and attended the University of Illinois, where he studied political science and criminal justice. He also attended The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Asked last September about Granberg by Mike Riopell, a Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau reporter, Blagojevich had this to say about Granberg. ‘‘I have the greatest regard for Kurt Granberg,’’ Blagojevich said. ‘‘He would do great at anything he wants to do. So, let’s see where we are and see where this goes. But Kurt’s a good man.’‘

Granberg told Riopell on Friday he had been expecting the appointment for months and plans to increase tourism at the state’s parks and sites with ideas that include a golf trail in Southern Illinois.

“I thought I would be appointed by now, frankly,” Granberg said.

“During his long, distinguished career, he has shown his commitment to our state’s lands, waterways, wildlife and other natural resources,” a statement from Blagojevich’s office said.

Granberg takes over for Sam Flood, who has served as acting DNR director since Joel Brunsvold stepped down from the position in December of 2005. At that time, Flood said he was not interested in serving as anything more than acting director. And he did not expect to hold even that job for very long. Now Flood is expected to remain as assistant director.

Granberg served in the House of Representatives since 1987 and was assistant majority leader under Speaker Michael Madigan. He resigned his seat before the House voted Jan. 9 to impeach Blagojevich.

Granberg had been rumored as the top candidate for the DNR job for more than a year and was rumored to have purchased a house in Springfield.  There are also reports, however, that the DNR job was not Granberg’s top choice. According to Kurt Erickson of the Bloomington Pantagraph, “The 55-year-old Carlyle Democrat had hoped to land a job at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, but got the DNR job instead.”

As far as his outdoors interests, Granberg is said to be a bird hunter.

Granberg’s most publicized previous dealings with natural resources came in 1999-2000 when he was involved in a bid to have a resort built on the east side of Carlyle Lake. One problem stood in the way of that plan: the Eastern massasauga rattlesnake, just a few hundred of which are believed to survive in the state.

Snake experts said Carlyle was home to the largest population of these small, relatively docile rattlers. Granberg tried to get the rattlesnake taken off the state’s endangered species list when it threatened plans for the lodge.

At the time, he was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to wipe out a species, but I think we can balance economic development and the environment,” he said. “The whole premise of the lake when it was built was to control flooding and to promote tourism and economic development, but nothing came to fruition.”

Next up is confirmation by the Illinois Senate, which is usually a formality.

Beyond that, there is the very real possibility that Blagojevich will be removed from office. That might not be good news for Granberg. When Kevin McDermott of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Granberg if he had talked to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn about working for him, Granberg laughed and said, “Pat and I don’t get along.”