Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) Acting Director John Sullivan hasn’t let the grass grow since taking the reins at the agency, announcing changes to the state’s label requirements for dicamba, advancing the rule-making process for industrial hemp production and, most recently, naming managers for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair.
“One of the duties and responsibilities of the Illinois Department of Ag is to oversee the Illinois State Fair and the Du Quoin State Fair, as well as oversee the county fairs and horse racing,” Sullivan said in an interview with RFD Radio Network. “Last week, we announced new state fair managers for both of those fairs, so we’re excited to have that process completed.”
Sullivan, who manages his own family’s farm in Schuyler County, said choosing managers for both fairs was a big decision, and one that he certainly didn’t take lightly.
“I believe in trying to do as much research as possible before I make a big decision, and I felt like both of those choices in fair managers is a big decision because the fairs are very visible – they’re very out in the public’s eye,” Sullivan said. “I thought it was important to know what the qualities are that a person would want in a fair manager.”
To find out, Sullivan took orders straight from the horse’s mouth: former fair managers themselves.
“I reached out to a number of former fair manager over the last three or four administrations and quizzed them,” Sullivan said. “What did you do right? What would you have done different? What are some of the qualities (needed)?”
Sullivan said he also reached out to residents in the Springfield and Du Quoin communities to get their take. After gathering the information, two names easily filtered to the top.
For the Illinois State Fair, based in Springfield, Sullivan chose Kevin Gordon, who served as the Illinois State Fair manager in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“Everybody, I think almost without exception, had good things to say about Kevin – about his leadership style, and that he got in there and did the work, he worked well with people, he worked to find solutions to problems – just a lot of positive comments,” Sullivan said.
Wanting to have a chance to see the Illinois State Fair up close and personally as director, Sullivan asked Gordon if he would be willing to reprise his role as manager on a part-time basis for 2019.
“Kevin took a little time to think about it, but he cam back and said, ‘Yes,’” Sullivan said. “He was announced last week as the 2019 fair manager and I think the reception has been very, very good.”
On the opposite end of the state, Sullivan looked to Josh Gross, in Perry County, as his fair manager.
“Josh is currently the Perry County Clerk, so he’s an elected official who has run county-wide down there, twice,” Sullivan said. “He’s just really an impressive young man. His experience – he’s spent quite a few years in retail management responsibilities, he’s managed people, budgets – he’s just a very common-sense type of individual and someone who, I think, is going to do a great job in leading the Du Quoin State Fair.”
Audio: Illinois Department of Agriculture Acting Director John Sullivan discusses his upcoming confirmation hearing, scheduled for Friday, April 12.
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April 11, 2019 at 01:19AM