Incoming Gov. Bruce Rauner is in a unique position. In addition to staffing up with advisors and agency directors, he has to appoint a comptroller, as the November election winner, Judy Baar Topinka, died last month. The job of comptroller is so meager, says Charlie Wheeler, that it adds little to Rauner’s power base. The longtime statehouse reporter, who now runs the public affairs reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, says the office simply writes checks.
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“The most important qualification to be comptroller or to be treasurer is to have enough sense to hire professionals to run the office for you – and then stay out of their way,” he says.
Topinka’s death and the appointment of Jerry Stermer to serve three weeks in the office, and Rauner’s upcoming appointment, are renewing talk to combine the two offices, though that would require the voting public to approve a constitutional amendment that has gotten through the Illinois General Assembly.
Wheeler says Rauner, despite his promises to clean house, would be well-served to keep some people around who know what is going on. “There’s a lot of talent out there,” Wheeler says, “and just because you have some experience doesn’t make you a bad guy.”