Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has resigned as a member of the board of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Callahan sent a letter Monday to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who is also chairman of the state party, saying she resigned immediately as the committeewoman from the 18th Congressional District.
The resignation follows a political column item that ran Sunday in The State Journal-Register, saying that Callahan had been appointed to the state central committee last month to replace Shirley McCombs of Petersburg, who died in October. The committee has one man and one woman from each of the state’s congressional districts.
On Monday, Rich Miller posted the item on his Capitol Fax blog and questioned the situation, as people could wonder if politics was involved in hiring or discipline with a state agency director also having the political post.
Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for Gov. JB Pritzker, on Tuesday had no comment on the resignation.
Maura Possley, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Illinois, said there will be a search for a replacement, and Democratic county chairs from the 18th Congressional District would cast weighted votes to name Callahan’s successor.
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, last year co-sponsored legislation that would ban state government department directors from lending their voices to paid campaign ads.
Manar said Tuesday that the legislation — in response to practices under Democratic and Republican administrations — never got a full floor vote in the Senate, and it would not have banned Callahan from being on the state central committee.
Still, he called her resignation from the political committee “a prudent move.” Concerning directors of high-profile state agencies and politics, Manar said, “separate is always better.”
Callahan is a cousin of U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, and a niece of Bustos’ late father, Gene Callahan of Springfield. She and her husband have a home in Edwards.