By CARL GREEN
Belleville, IL – Nobody worked harder during the election campaign last year than Brendan Kelly, the two-term St. Clair County state’s attorney from Swansea.
He didn’t quite win a seat in Congress, but he has been given an important role to play anyway – as director of the Illinois State Police.
Governor J.B. Pritzker last week appointed Kelly, 42, to lead the department. The Democratic-dominated Senate was preparing to ratify the appointment.
“We think the world of Brendan Kelly,” Pritzker said in announcing the choice. “He’s done a great job as state’s attorney. He was a great candidate. He’s certainly somebody we think highly of.”
The appointment was well-received by Metro East union leaders. Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, recalled how dedicated Kelly was to the entire Democratic ticket during last year’s long campaign.
“He was one of the hardest-working candidates,” Luchtefeld said. “He was everywhere, trying to help everybody.”
B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, said Kelly was a great candidate and will be a great police official. “I was excited to hear about it,” he said. “He would have been a great congressman, but wow, this is fantastic, and we are elated about it. Congratulations to Brendan Kelly – well deserved!”
The appointment shows not only that Kelly is well-qualified and well-respected, but that Pritzker is acting on his pledge to build connections between the state government and southern Illinois, noted Luchtefeld.
“It’s a Metro-East connection, not just Chicago,” he said. “Pritzker said he wasn’t going to forget southern Illinois, and this shows that.”
Kelly has been state’s attorney since 2010. Last year, he easily defeated several opponents in the Democratic primary for the 12th Congressional District. His campaign against incumbent Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) won strong support from local and national Democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden, but it wasn’t enough to unseat Bost.
Kelly said had no plans to run against Bost again in 2020.
“I like working with law enforcement,” he added. “I like working with criminal justice issues and I’m fully committed to this job as long as it makes sense and the people will have me.”
Pritzker said he was confident Kelly would be a “terrific” director of the state police.
Kelly, who previously called on Illinois governors to increase police manpower and funding for additional cadet classes, told the Belleville News-Democrat, “This governor and his team are very serious about governing and very serious about public safety.
“There already are ongoing conversations about how we confront the challenges we have about forensics and other manpower issues. I’m very excited to be able to serve with the men and women of the state police and this team, which is trying to reach out to both sides of the aisle do the work hard work of governing.”
Kelly will be only the third prosecutor to direct the agency. He will make $152,451, including a 15 percent raise just granted by the Legislature and approved by Pritzker. That’s still less than the $164,500 Kelly made as state’s attorney.
Kelly replaces Leo Schmitz, a former deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department known for his work with gang enforcement. Schmitz was appointed by former Governor Bruce Rauner in 2015.