Bernard Schoenburg: Too much gambling for Walker's liking

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Even though he opened the door to legalized gambling in Illinois, former Gov. Dan Walker doesn't like the way such enterprises have grown in the state.

Walker, now 88, told me this week he was putting the final touches, with developments at the Statehouse as the session ended, on a book he's now calling "Lady Luck Seduces the Land of Lincoln: How Gambling Brutalized the State of Illinois."

Yes, Walker, in his one term as governor, approved the 1974 beginning of the state lottery.

At the time, Walker said, people got "swept up" in the movement to gambling, with the promise that the money would go toward education, though for a long time in Illinois it just went to the state's general fund.

The late state Rep. E. J. "Zeke" Giorgi, D-Rockford, who was known as the father of the state lottery, "had full sway," Walker said.

"Zeke wanted it, and the legislature wanted it, so I decided to go along," said Walker, a Democrat who beat the machine of the first Mayor Richard Daley in 1972 to win his one term. "I was trying to get along with the legislature at that time, after the opening year where I fought with them a lot. But it didn't do me any good."

Walker has been writing for a number of years, including a 2007 autobiography titled "The Maverick and the Machine," published by Southern Illinois University Press. He said he will send his new manuscript there as well, and hopes it gets published.

Listening to Gov. Pat Quinn, who worked for Walker in the 1970s, talk Wednesday about the gambling package passed this week by the General Assembly, it seems as if both men have the same sentiments. Quinn was very critical of what he considered a "way too excessive" proposed expansion of gambling, seeming to signal that at least an amendatory veto is on the way to cut it back.

Walker and wife LILY live in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, which he stressed is very inexpensive.

"We live on pension and Social Security," he said.

Walker doesn't get a state pension for his four years in office back in the 1970s, said TIM BLAIR, executive secretary of the state retirement systems, which cover state lawmakers and statewide officials,  judges and state employees.

Walker also proudly noted that one of his seven children, Will, now works for the state overseeing the auto fleet. The former governor said his son got the job on his own and has been an "excellent executive" who would do a very good job.

Will Walker, 48, of Crystal Lake, a married father of four, is the youngest of Walker's children. He started in mid-April as manager of the division of vehicles for the Department of Central Management Services, which he said includes running 16 garages across the state and overseeing about 12,000 vehicles.

He said he has 25 years' experience in the automotive industry, having worked for Shell Oil, Pennzoil, Jiffy Lube and Car-X. He was with Car-X for three years and left as a regional operations manager. He more recently worked for Kumon, an after-school education company, where he was Midwest regional director for franchising.

He said his private business experience helps him understand money-saving ways, and there are "a lot of things I think we can do to streamline."

He's being paid $92,748 annually.

He said he finds state government "exciting," knows there is a lot to do, and he is "truly impressed by the level of commitment" of fellow employees.

Will Walker said he got the job after he "chatted about the position" with his former brother-in-law, DAVID VAUGHT, who is director of the office of management and budget for Quinn. Vaught in the past was married to Will's sister KATHLEEN. They have been divorced for many years.

Former Gov. Walker said Kathleen is a very successful lawyer in Chicago.

Will Walker's position, said state spokesman GREG RIVARA, filled a long-standing vacancy. The position is exempt from Rutan anti-patronage rules and partially exempt from the state personnel code.

"Will has nearly 25 years of experience in the automotive industry, including management positions and profit-and-loss responsibilities," Rivara said via email.

Kelm working for fire marshal

Dave Kelm a former WMAY-AM talk-show host who has emceed some local Tea Party events, is working on contract for the Office of State Fire Marshal.

Louis Pukelis, spokesman for the office, said Kelm is among contract attorneys "helping to reduce a backlog of underground storage tank violations. The positions are entry-level in nature."

According to the comptroller's office, Kelm, 42, of Springfield, is being paid $35 an hour.

The contractual work is paid for by a federal grant provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program is set to end when the federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, Pukelis said.

Kelm has worked for former GOP Gov. Jim Edgar and was governmental affairs director for the old Department of Nuclear Safety. He was elected an alternate delegate, for JOHN McCAIN, to the 2008 GOP National Convention and ran unsuccessfully for Springfield Ward 6 alderman in 2003.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or