Those interested in becoming a member of the council can submit applications at www.appointments.illinois.gov. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis when positions are open.
As part of the Executive Order re-launching the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, seats were made available for six citizen members that have a wide range of experience and will help the GRAC in its work on local foods and rural EMS issues. The remaining seats on the GRAC are reserved for representatives of various state and federal agencies and institutions.
Heather Hampton-Knodle (Montgomery County)
Chairman of the Central Illinois Economic Development Authority
Heather Hampton-Knodle, Chairman of the Central Illinois Economic Development Authority, farms with her husband Brian Knodle in Montgomery County. Her past experience managing and working in associations such as the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, the Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri Rivers Association, and Illinois drainage, livestock and wheat groups have provided a perspective of agriculture and rural development issues throughout Illinois. She and Brian live with their four children near Fillmore in the heart of Montgomery County.
Assistant County Administrator for Economic Development, Peoria County
Mark Rothert currently serves as the Assistant County Administrator for Economic Development in Peoria County. His efforts span the scope of business development and attraction in both urban and rural parts of Peoria County. Previously, Rothert spent over six years as executive director of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development located in rural Canton, Illinois and was responsible for several initiatives that included the creation of Canton Main Street, completion of the city’s comprehensive plan
, securing nearly $5 million in federal and state grants, brownfield redevelopment, and making Canton a finalist for the 2010 All-America City Awards. Rothert, a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED), holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Western Illinois University and a Masters degree in public administration from the University of Kansas.
Robin Rose, BSN, MHA
CEO & Chief Nursing Executive, Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services
Robin Rose is the Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services in Gibson City. She received her nursing degree from McKendree College and her master’s degree in healthcare administration from Rochville University. In 2010, Robin received the National Rural Healthcare Association’s Louis Gorin Award for her achievements and contributions to rural health care. Robin hails from Kentucky and loves sports, especially Horse Racing. In her “spare” time she enjoys reading. She has one daughter, Bella.
Gregory Scott, R.N., M.S., EMT-P, CHEC
McLean County Area EMS System
Greg Scott has been involved in emergency medical services for the past 25 years in various positions ranging from front-line patient care to administrative. He has been involved in various disaster related committees and task forces. He currently serves as the Director of the McLean County Area EMS System in Bloomington Illinois. He also serves as a Board member for the Illinois Rural Health Association and is Co-Chair of the Illinois EMS Advisory Council’s Rural EMS Recruitment/Retention committee. Greg Scott is a Licensed Professional Nurse, Licensed EMT-Paramedic, and holds many other certifications.
Karen Leavitt Stallman (Randolph County)
Director of Sustainability, Southwestern Illinois College
Karen Leavitt Stallman currently serves as the Director of Sustainability at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. Previously, she worked for University of Illinois Extension for nearly 20 years. Karen received a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Agriculture Education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Karen has two children and owns/operates the family farm in Randolph County.
Agency & Institution Representatives
Illinois Community College Board
Geoffrey Obrzut, President and Chief Executive Officer
Geoffrey Obrzut has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) since January 2004. Prior to his position with the ICCB, Obrzut was the Director of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities. He served a term as State Representative for the 52nd District in the Illinois General Assembly in the early 1990s. He was elected to the Triton College Board of Trustees in River Grove where he served from 1981-1987. Obrzut and his wife Mary reside in Frankfort, Illinois.
Illinois Rural Partners
Gerald A. (Jerry) Townsend, Past President
Jerry Townsend has served on the Illinois Rural Partners board for over twenty years and currently serves as past president. He serves on a number of non-profit boards and community organizations. Townsend retired from USDA Rural Development as Community Programs Director and had oversight of a loan and grant program of over $ 1 billion to Illinois units of government and nonprofit organizations for a variety of community facilities. He previously served in the U.S. Army and Peace Corps and is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Townsend and his wife Kay live in Urbana and have five grown children and thirteen grandchildren.
Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, Western Illinois University
Dr. Christopher Merrett, Director and Professor of Geography
Christopher D. Merrett is Director and Professor of Geography at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western Illinois University. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Iowa in 1994 with a focus on regional development and international trade. Merrett also earned an M.A. in Geography from the University of Vermont, a B.S. in Political Science from Lake Superior State University, and a B.A. in Geography from the University of Western Ontario. His primary duties include research, community outreach, and teaching. His current research focuses on cooperatives and community development.
Southern Illinois University
Kim Sanders, Director, Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, SIU-Carbondale
Kim Sanders has over 20 years professional experience in various health-related fields with a special interest in mental health care delivery, rural health disparities and health care economics. She has a Master’s in Public Health, as well as a Masters in Business Administration. With SIUC the last nine years, she has been involved in community needs assessments, program evaluation, entrepreneurship promotion, economic and health-related research, workforce development issues, and community connectivity strategies. Additionally, Ms. Sanders has presented and co-presented at numerous regional, state and national conferences in the areas of rural health research, development, and collaborative projects.
University of Illinois Extension
Dr. Robert Hoeft, Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension
Robert G. Hoeft is a native of David City, Nebraska. He received his B.S. and M. S. from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin under the direction of Dr. Leo M. Walsh. He served as Professor of Soil Fertility Extension, Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois from 1973 to 2005, as Head of the Department of Crop Sciences from 2005 to 2009, and now serves as Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension. Throughout his career, his extension and research programs have been devoted to proper fertilizer use to optimize crop production and minimize adverse effects on the environment. Dr. Hoeft was President of the American Society of Agronomy in 2003. He has authored many popular and scientific papers on this subject and is co-author of the world’s most widely used corn and soybean book, Modern Corn and Soybean Production.
Illinois Agricultural Association (Illinois Farm Bureau)
Brenda Matherly, Assistant Director of Local Government, Governmental Affairs and Commodities Division
Brenda Matherly joined Illinois Farm Bureau in April 1998. She currently serves as their assistant director of local government in the Governmental Affairs and Commodities Division. In her position, Matherly is responsible for local government programs and policy development with specific responsibility for local government finance, property assessments, local school issues, special districts, rural development and rural health care. Raised on a Merna, Illinois farm, Matherly received her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. She, her husband Jack, their son Jackie and daughter Bailey, live in Normal, Illinois.
Illinois State Board of Education
Dr. Andrea Brown, Board Member
With more than 45 years of Illinois education experience, Andrea Brown, Ph.D. served as Regional Superintendent for Alexander-Johnson-Massac-Pulaski-Union Counties from 1994 to 2003. She also served at the district level working in the Cairo Unit School District, first as a special education and elementary teacher and later as superintendent. She was also a special education supervisor for Johnson, Alexander, Massac and Pulaski (JAMP) Special Education Services. Brown has served on a number of statewide committees, including the Illinois Finance Study on Necessarily Small Schools, the Committee for the Development of the Illinois Quality Review Process, the Southern Illinois Educational Leadership Advisory Committee, the Illinois Goals 2000 Panel, and the Task Force to Streamline Illinois’ Educational Delivery System. She serves as a member of the State Board’s Education Policy Planning Committee and the Finance & Audit Committee.
Illinois Department on Aging
John Holton, Director
John Holton was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as Director of the Illinois Department on Aging in October 2011. Holton served from 2007 through 2010 as associate director the Division of Mental Health at the Illinois Department of Human Services. He previously served as site director for the Harvard University School of Public Health's Project on Human Development in Chicago's Neighborhoods, and is a member of the American Public Health Association. Holton's experience in community and human development will help him in confronting Illinois' unprecedented increase in its older adult population. Holton holds a Ph.D. in human development from Pennsylvania State University as well as a master's in urban education from the University of Hartford and a B.A. from Howard University.
Illinois Department of Agriculture
Bob Flider, Director
Governor Pat Quinn appointed Bob Flider as Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture in February 2012. Flider served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2003 through 2011. As a legislator Flider worked on a number of agriculture issues, serving on the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, the Energy & Environment Committee and the Ethanol Production Oversight Committee. Flider also served as the chairman of the House Electric Generation & Commerce Committee and vice chairman of the House Renewable Energy Committee. He was named an "Agriculture Certified Legislator" by the Illinois Farm Bureau in 2004 and a "Friend of Agriculture" by the Farm Bureau in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Before becoming directorof the Department of Agrigulture, Flider was the director of Broadband Impact at the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, where he promoted broadband access in rural areas. He is a member of the Macon County Farm Bureau and a past board director of the Decatur-Macon County Economic Development Corporation. He served as mayor of Mt. Zion from 1995 until 2003.
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Adam Pollet, Acting Director
Governor Pat Quinn appointed Adam Pollet as Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in November 2012. Pollet is an international trade expert with broad business experience across both the public and private sectors. In his new post as Acting Director, he leads the state’s economic development arm and implements Governor Quinn’s vision to create jobs, double exports and expand the state’s global economy. Pollet was most recently deputy director for the Illinois Office of Trade and Investment within DCEO, where he led the state’s export and foreign direct investment activities. Before joining the state in 2011, Pollet worked in the Chicago office of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. where he served client companies in the firm’s strategy and operations practices. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Pollet previously worked for the United Nations focusing on trade facilitation, poverty reduction, and environmental protection initiatives. Pollet earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University, where he studied international relations.
Illinois Department of Human Services
Michelle R.B. Saddler, Director
Michelle R.B. Saddler was appointed to serve as Director of Human Services (DHS) by Governor Pat Quinn in October 2009. During her tenure as Director of DHS, Saddler has implemented a number of Governor Quinn’s top initiatives, including the Put Illinois to Work program. The program was one of the largest and most successful in the nation and has put more than 26,000 people to work in subsidized temporary jobs. Additionally, under Saddler’s leadership, the agency drew down an additional $250 million in federal funds for human services. Before being named policy chief for the Quinn Administration, Saddler served in a number of policy and management positions in both the public and private sectors. Her past positions include Vice President for International Adoptions for the Lifelink Corporation and Executive Director of the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Marc Miller, Director
Marc Miller was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2009. Prior to his appointment, he served as senior policy adviser and liaison to the Illinois River Coordinating Council for the Office of Lieutenant Governor. During that time, he was instrumental in development and implementation of many environmental programs. They include: The Dam Safety Initiative and the Mud-to-Parks program, which promoted the beneficial reuse of river settlement. The Department of Natural Resources mission is to increase the public's understanding and appreciation of Illinois’ resources, and to promote the education, science and public safety of the state’s natural resources for present and future generations. Director Miller is an avid outdoorsman with an interest in fly fishing, hunting, canoeing, wildlife viewing, camping and hiking. He currently lives in Springfield with his wife Debbie.
Illinois Department of Public Health
La Mar Hasbrouck, Director
La Mar Hasbrouck was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health in April 2012. Hasbrouck, MD, MPH most recently served as public health director and commissioner of mental health in upstate New York. Prior to becoming commissioner, Dr. Hasbrouck spent 11 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as part of the epidemic intelligence service. Dr. Hasbrouck worked to reduce and eliminate diseases in countries around the world, including polio eradication in Bangladesh and serving as the CDC director and chief of party in Guyana, South America. Dr. Hasbrouck holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s of public health from the University of California-Berkeley, and received his medical degree from the UCLA/Drew School of Medicine.
Illinois Finance Authority
Christopher B. Meister, Executive Director
As the Executive Director of the Illinois Finance Authority, Christopher Meister leads a staff of finance and legal experts that provide hands-on support to help Illinois businesses get the capital they need for growth. Meister was appointed to head the IFA in July 2009 after two years as the agency’s General Counsel and Deputy Director. His focus at IFA has been to develop creative new financing tools to help meet the needs of Illinois businesses seeking to create and retain jobs around the state. He served as Legislative Director/Associate General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, where his most notable achievement was drafting and securing passage of legislation for the Illinois Film Tax Credit. Meister is a Graduate of DePaul University and University of Illinois College of Law. He and his family live in Oak Park.
Illinois Department of Transportation
Ann L. Schneider, Secretary
Ann L. Schneider was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in October 2011 after serving as Acting Secretary since July 2011. Prior to her appointment, she served as IDOT’s Chief of Operations, responsible for managing and overseeing the department’s six offices and four divisions. She also served five years as director of IDOT’s finance and administration office. Secretary Schneider holds a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College and a master’s degree in public administration from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield).
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
John Kim, Director
John Kim was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to serve as Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency after serving as chief legal counsel and ethics officer for the agency since 2009. Kim has worked to protect Illinois' environment since 1988, previously serving as acting general counsel at the Illinois Department of Agriculture, managing attorney and staff attorney at the Illinois EPA, and assistant attorney general and special assistant attorney general for the Illinois Attorney General. His experience ranges from working with state and federal environmental statutes to providing guidance in pollution prevention principles to selected industries in China, to working with China EPA, USEPA, the World Bank and the United Nations' Environment Program.
Illinois Housing Development Authority
Bill Pluta, Director, Office of Housing Coordination Services
Bill Pluta is the Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority's (IHDA) Office of Housing Coordination Services (OHCS). Born in Chicago, Mr. Pluta graduated from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois in 1977 with a B.A. with Honors in Political Science, with Business Administration and Urban/Community Studies minors. In 1979, he completed his M.P.A. degree from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield) in Springfield, Illinois, serving as Class Marshall for the Public Administration Program. Mr. Pluta has over 33 years of experience in managing and operating federal and State housing, community, and economic development and planning programs at both the State and municipal government levels, and in both urban and rural areas of Illinois, Texas, and Louisiana.
Colleen Callahan, Illinois State Director
Colleen Callahan grew up on a purebred Hampshire hog, Angus cattle and grain farm near Milford, Illinois. While attending Milford High School she took agricultural classes but was not permitted to be a member of the National FFA Organization because women were not admitted into FFA until after her high school graduation. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from the University of Illinois, Colleen became the first woman Agribusiness Director for WMBD Radio and TV in Peoria. After 30 years there, Colleen started her own communications firm. She continued farm broadcasting at WGFA Radio in Watseka, IL until April 2010. In 2009, the Obama Administration named Colleen to serve as Illinois State Director for Rural Development at the USDA. Colleen and her husband Dick Burns live on a farm near Kickapoo, Illinois, between Brimfield, Illinois and Peoria, where they raise purebred Angus cattle.
Northern Illinois University
Dr. Norman Walzer, Senior Research Scholar in the Center for Governmental Studies
Norman Walzer, Ph.D., is Senior Research Scholar in the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University. He worked with the Task Force on the Future of Rural Illinois in 1986 and helped design the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council. He started the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University in 1989 and directed it until retiring in 2006. He currently is studying the impacts of governmental structure on local public finance in Illinois, issues facing small rural hospitals, and factors underlying business starts in the Midwest. He has published widely on entrepreneurship, economic development, local public finance, infrastructure, health, and related rural issues. He is completing a term as president of the Community Development Society.