While hunting yesterday, I first heard the news that Joel Brunsvold was very ill from a stroke.
Mr. Brunsvold died this morning.
The Quad Cities Times has an extensive obit/news story posted here.
That I first heard of his illness while hunting should not be a surprise. Being a hunter and a shooter defined him as much as being a politician.
I had great hopes when Mr. Brunsvold took over his dream job as IDNR director. He gave up being a powerful legislator to take the IDNR post in the early months of Gov. Blagojevich's first year in office.
Being IDNR director under Gov. Blagojevich put Brunsvold, who had a bunch of good ideas, in an impossible situation. He tried to keep an agency functioning while Blagojevich was taking a hatchet to it.
I truly felt for Brunsvold, who had to do a lot of explaining. Such as at an outdoor gathering at Rend Lake Resort in 2004 (above)
But Brunsvold is the only recent IDNR director who showed an inkling of understanding what perch mean to Chicago outdoors.
He pushed through at least getting the July closure lifted for kids 15 and younger.
While I am all for wildlife professionals running the IDNR, there is something to be said for a person in leadership who also understands political consequences and how to move in the political arena.
On a personal level, Mr. Brunsvold was the IDNR director I was closest to. Something I'm not sure he was too sure about as the problems and years mounted under Blagojevich. Early on, I hunted with Mr. Brunsvold. Hunting was his true passion.
One of my connected hunting friends tipped me to a scoop early in the gubernatorial race that Mr. Brunsvold would be Blagojevich's choice for the IDNR post, if Blagojevich won.
And the scoop held up.
Shooting was the source of the greatest pride of accomplishment with Mr. Brunsvold.
He took a great sense of accomplishment to seeing the World Shooting & Recreational Complex completed in Sparta, Illinois.
Mr. Brunsvold and I did not always see eye to eye. He's much more into gun rights than I am. He did not care for how I characterized his resignation from the IDNR post.
But in the years since I continued to find Mr. Brunsvold a great source I would tap once or twice a year for political insight. And he returned my phone calls on issues and would usually give me his blunt opinion.
I valued it. And will miss it.
My heart goes out to his family.
We lost one of the great behind-the-scenes supporters of the outdoors in Illinois.