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Pritzker appoints new DHS, IDNR, IDFPR heads

Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019

Building on a strong team of diverse experts in their fields, Governor JB Pritzker announced the following personnel appointments:


Grace Hou will serve as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS).* Hou is currently the president of Woods Fund Chicago, a grant-making foundation that funds organizations that draw on the power of communities to fight the brutality of poverty and structural racism. From 2003 to 2012, she served as the Assistant Secretary at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) where she was responsible for the oversight of the agency’s six program areas. During that time, she was a key leader in the creation and implementation of the state’s nationally acclaimed Immigrant Integration New American’s Executive Order. Hou previously served as executive director of Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) and has been a vocal advocate for immigrant rights. She received her Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois Springfield and her Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Colleen Callahan will serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR).* Callahan currently manages her own communications consulting firm after spending over seven years as state director for USDA Rural Development in Illinois. During her tenure, she oversaw a 20% reduction in staffing while still being able to generate a $1 billion increase in the Illinois loan portfolio. Prior, Callahan served as the agribusiness director for WMBD in Peoria, a position she held for 30 years. She was the first female president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Callahan received her Bachelor of Science in agricultural communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Deborah Hagan will serve as Secretary of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).* For over 36 years, Hagan has been a strong and exemplary advocate for consumer protection in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. In her role as leader of the Consumer Protection Division, she advanced and defended the interests of Illinois consumers in critical areas such as mortgage origination and servicing, student loan servicing, debt collection, identity theft and other areas of financial risk. Hagan has played a critical leadership role in many groundbreaking settlements on the state and national level, helping to recover billions of dollars in restitution for victims of consumer fraud and other wrongful conduct. In addition to her current role which she has held since 2004, Hagan has served as bureau chief, deputy bureau chief and assistant attorney general. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Dayton School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Miami University.

Mario Treto, Jr. will serve as Director of Real Estate at IDFPR.* Treto currently serves as Deputy City Attorney for the City of Evanston where he provides legal counsel to its elected officials, departments, and staff with compliance, transactional, and corporate matters. Prior to entering the public sector, he worked at a Chicago-based law firm focusing his practice on commercial and residential real estate, corporate law and commercial transactions. Treto is a nationally recognized lawyer by various organizations, including the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the National LGBT Bar. He also serves as board chair of Howard Brown Health, a federally qualified health center in the Chicagoland area with ten clinics and a youth center serving 35,000 patients. He received his Juris Doctor from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in biology and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Francisco Menchaca will continue to serve as Director of Financial Institutions at IDFPR.* Menchaca has held the post since his appointment by Gov. Quinn in July 2013 and previously served the department as credit union supervisor. Prior to beginning state service, Menchaca developed an extensive resume managing financial institutions and governmental agencies at the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC). He has spent over twenty years of his career in the financial industry, notably serving as the First Vice President at Bank One, where he also spearheaded the Latino Employee Network. Menchaca is a proponent of robust public‐private partnerships and community outreach, citing his youth in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood as his inspiration in seeking to provide opportunities for educational and economic development. He received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University.

Jessica Baer will continue to serve as Director of Professional Regulation at IDFPR.* Baer has held the post since her appointment by Gov. Rauner in September 2016 and previously served the department as general counsel. In that role, she oversaw the entire legal department for the agency, providing input on a number of topics including pending litigation, labor issues, and legislation. Prior to joining IDFPR, Baer spent six years as an associate at K&L Gates focusing on litigation and antitrust law. Her cases involved complex contractual disputes, antitrust litigation and regulatory compliance counseling. Baer is licensed to practice law in Illinois. She earned her Juris Doctor from DePaul University and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Click here to view the previous appointments to the Pritzker administration.

* Appointment pending confirmation by the Illinois Senate.

He seems to be keeping around quite a few Rauner appointees.

* The Illinois Sierra Club is loving the Callahan appointment, by the way…

We applaud Governor Pritzker’s appointment of Colleen Callahan to be the be the first woman to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. We’ve had the pleasure of working with Colleen for years to protect natural resources and bring the benefits of the clean energy economy to central Illinois. She has a big job ahead of her at a Department that has been devastated in recent years by budget problems and neglect, and we look forward to working with her to rebuild Illinois’ commitment to conservation and protecting our natural heritage for today and for future generations.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DownSouth - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:17 am:

    Agree with Grim Future. Sierra club may be loving her appointment, but a raft of sportsmen’s and conservation groups are not at all enthused.

  2. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:17 am:

    I see the good ol’ southern boys are already out with the long knives this morning. Don’t get yourself banned for life, boys.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:18 am:

    The lone suggestion is make (its their administration, it’s rare I comment to he negative, but… ) is drop any Rauner appointee with ties to IPI… they need to go.

    No need for IPI folks in the Pritzker Administration, as they could be more inclined to ideology(?)

    “Why take a chance?”

  4. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:19 am:

    Really smart choice going with Hou at DHS. She is well respected and was well liked when she was there. Gov needs to allow her to pick her key staff members and let her get moving on the Gov’s agenda for human services.

  5. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:22 am:

    These look good. I’m relieved that he’s paying attention to the staffing.
    (Okay, that’s probably not fair as his staff has probably been working diligently to staff the whole time. But still. When you don’t tell people what’s going on how are they to know?)
    Secretary Hou looks like a super solid choice.
    I LOVE that she spent nine years on the bridge of DHS already.
    THAT is what I’m talking about
    That can’t be found in an outside superstar.
    She is going to do well.
    The front line salutes you Madame Secretary

  6. - dying HDO - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:23 am:

    keeping menchaca will make victor reyes and the payday lenders rejoice.

  7. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:24 am:

    Callahan and Hou continue solid streak of great choices. Us downstaters are happy.
    Hagan and others at IDFPR will do a very good job with that mess too

  8. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:27 am:

    Colleen Callahan is an excellent choice for the IDNR.

  9. - Are Ya Kiddin' Me? - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    JB spends $100M plus to tell everyone what a disaster the Rauner Administration was and then he keeps a bunch of Rauner appointees(more to come), don’t understand it?
    What these Rauner appointees who were a disaster are more qualified than any Ds?

  10. - Montrose - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    Grace Hou is perfect for the spot. I’m so very excited to see her back at DHS. And Mario Treto is a great addition to the administration.

  11. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    Callahan is a great choice. I know it makes some people skittish seeing the Sierra Club being so enthusiastic. I am kind of surprised how enthusiastic they are. Nonetheless she will be a great department head and will bridge issues that arise.

  12. - Fifthcolumn - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:52 am:

    Pritzker folks should heed Willies words, Rauner devotees must go. In particular HZ. Don’t think that they can be tucked away. The Rauner damage report scratched the surface of what Rauner did. But he didn’t do it himself. He had the help of key ideologues. Damage will be uncovered for years. It will be a nightmare Pritzker to explain why certain people who facilitated the damage are being protected and employed. There are many fine people who served through the administration. Then there are those who orbited around Rauner and made the damage a reality.

  13. - Al Grosboll - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    The choice of Colleen Callahan for IDNR is a solid and positive selection by Governor Pritzker. Colleen Callahan is a seasoned administrator and she has an excellent understanding of downstate Illinois. The department needs someone with experience and the willingness to work with the department’s professionals. This department is understaffed and underappreciated. I am hopeful the Pritzker administration will support the new director, rebuild the staff, which is a third of what it used to be, and properly fund the state’s parks and historic sites.

  14. - Shevek - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    @ Annonin’ - What’s the mess at IDFPR?

  15. - Swampy Corn - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    Eh, there’s a handful of Raunerites that could probably stay but agree on IPI connections–they gotta go. Related, is it taking longer to fill spots due to the Chicago mayoral and people hoping they can work in Chicago as opposed to slog down and back to Springfield?

  16. - Duopoly - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 10:25 am:

    =What’s the mess at IDFPR?=
    5-year backlog of investigating complaints.

  17. - Blue Dog Dem - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 11:25 am:

    Yes. I too am disappointed. I will give the IDNR director time to prove herself. Not disappointed because who was picked , but rather, who was not. Life goes on.

  18. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    Very respectful BDD. I appreciate you wording as you did. I just wanted you to know it was noticed.

  19. - Just Curious... - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    Who do we suspect has IPI ties and is being retained by the new administration?

  20. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:20 pm:

    ===Who do we suspect has IPI ties and is being retained by the new administration?===

    Why suspect?

    Between LinkedIn, institutional knowledge, and bios…

  21. - ike - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:39 pm:

    Why didn’t JB appoint Sam McCann and all of local 150 to these positions. Doesn’t he have to reward all those people who colluded with him to take down Rauner? /s

  22. - West Wing - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    What’s going on with one of the largest state agencies, IDOT? Last time I heard there was a tight four-way race for the top job.

  23. - Anon - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:49 pm:

    Local 150 will get the infastructure billions. That should be reward enough. From what I can see these are just more political hacks. I highly doubt any of them will be able to effect change as the state is broke.

  24. - Alcibiades - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    Just curious- ask Deputy Governor Dan Hynes

  25. - Leave a light on George - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 12:58 pm:

    Already planning for a fire sale at DNR.

  26. - Just Curious - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    @Oswego Willy - Thanks for correcting my semantic error. Should red: Who HAS IPI ties and is being retained by the new administration?

    Since you’ve apparently already done the sleuthing here, will defer to your expertise.

    Thanks in advance.

  27. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 2:35 pm:

    Sorry for the typo @ 2:28 - should read “should read” not “red.”

    @Alcibiades - Dan Hynes, if you’re out there, please do chime in.

  28. - Alcibiades - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:38 pm:

    Just Curious- you know when you’re trying to surreptitiously signal someone you cough or tap a foot under the table?
    That’s what is happening here.
    It would be inappropriate to name names. The point is to signal. If it’s not dealt with….well then it’s on the Pritzker administration. Then you will have reporters asking why so and so of the Rauner administration, the person who……did x, is still guiding the new administration. That’s going to be tough to answer. Embarrassing to say the least.
    Especially since statehouse reporters are already peaved about the budget briefing.

  29. - Scott - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 3:51 pm:

    Why does Pritzker think it makes sense to keep Rauner people around? Dems, who think like him, were quickly eradicated when Rauner was elected. These people worked against our policies and our candidate. They must be laughing, now, since so many are staying. I guess thinks Administration needs to be stabbed in the back first.

  30. - Shevek - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 4:52 pm:

    @Duopoly - where’d you come up with a 5-year backlog of complaints. Sorry, there is no truth to that claim.

  31. - Now Blocked (Duopoly) - Wednesday, Feb 20, 19 @ 5:45 pm:

    @Shevek I’m looking at an IDPR intake letter from July 2014. Nothin since. Got me won’t be 5 years ’til July. Don’t argue like a child.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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