Both Kurt Granberg and I had the Illinois Senate debate on the hour or so before the 59-0 vote to kick out Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
It was surreal Thursday afternoon interviewing the current head of the IDNR while that historic drama unfolded as a backdrop.
Let me set this surreal scene.
Granberg resigned his seat just before the House voted to impeach Blagojevich. Then a week later, on Jan. 16, 2009, Granberg was named head of the IDNR and received a poke up of more than $40,000 in his pension annually.
And now he was calling me for help with ``a blueprint'' for the IDNR.
I'll give Granberg this, he's a talker and he wants to keep his hand in politics.
``This is a challenge,'' he said. ``I want to turn this place around and turn this place into what it used it.''
His main talking point is that he is a ``negotiator'' bringing together various viewpoints. And he was, working as the man just under House Speaker Michael Madigan.
It's almost convincing.
And what nearly got me is when he suggested that he would be just the guy to help push through a dedicated stream of funding for the IDNR via an up tick in the sales tax. That's similar to how Missouri does some funding.
That and when he suggested the trade unions use their apprentice programs to do some work at the state sites.
I'll give him this, that is a stroke of genius.
On two levels. One it would get some much needed work done at state sites. Two, it would tie in the trade union members, traditionally some of the staunchest backers of the IDNR and users of its services, more strongly behind the IDNR.
And he has other good ideas. He already established a meet and greet this week with staff at the IDNR in Springfield. That shouldn't be unusual but it is.
And he said if he keeps the job, he would meet with every site superintendent this spring. Considering I have been in my job for more than 12 years and I am only up to nearly half the state sites, that is admirable stuff.
But I have been around during much of Granberg's 20 years in office, during which he represented a Downstate district, and his name never came up in terms of the IDNR until 2007 when the worst kept secret in Springfield was he would be the next IDNR director.
And Granberg blathers about his golf trail across southern Illinois. Yes, that could be a good idea possibly for state resorts and for the tourism side of Illinois, but that falls under a different job.
And I sense no shame for accepting an appointment from a governor so bad he was kicked out shortly after we finished talking. That profoundly bothers me, even if the appointment of Granberg to head the IDNR goes back to 2007.
``I want the challenge of working the DNR,'' he said. ``It is a heck of a challenge. They have been beaten down so long.''
That's true. But when I ask why he should get the job ahead of more qualified candidates, his response is unsatisfactory.
``Is my record [on outdoor issues] outstanding, no,'' he said. ``[But] I do a little bit of everything. That is my main asset.''
Those are strong points in a state with political structure of Illinois.
But it ain't enough.
We have much stronger candidates to head the IDNR, and Gov. Pat Quinn (God, it feels cleansing to type that) and his people know the list.
Granberg isn't on it.