Peoria County farmer, ex-broadcaster leaves high-profile Pritzker Administration post

IDNR Director Colleen Callahan
IDNR Director Colleen Callahan
Published: Jan. 7, 2023 at 12:16 AM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Colleen Callahan is leaving her job Jan. 16 as Gov. JB Pritzker starts his second term.

Callahan is a Peoria County farmer and former agribusiness director for WMBD Radio and Television in Peoria. Pritzker appointed Callahan as IDNR director in 2019.

In a news release, Callahan does not explain her reason for leaving the administration.

The release said that during her tenure, Callahan guided IDNR through the COVID-19 pandemic, a time in which millions of visitors sought to “nurture their physical and mental health in the outdoors at Illinois’ nearly 400 state parks, natural areas and historic sites.”

IDNR also credited Callahan overseeing development of a strategic plan to reduce the agency’s carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Just last year, Callahan advocated for IDNR’s largest budget in 20 years to fund upgrades at state sites, and to offer the largest round of grants for open land acquisition and development.

The news release also said Callahan ushered IDNR into a “new era of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

She also led the effort to rebrand invasive carp, changing the name to Copi to spark consumer interest in the fish found in Illinois waterways.

“Since IDNR’s Enhanced Contract Fishing Program was established in 2019, commercial fishers have removed more than 9.4 million pounds of invasive carp from the Illinois River.” the agency’s news release said.

In 2008, Callahan ran as a Democrat for the Congressional seat covering the Peoria area, losing to Republican Aaron Schock.

After the election, Callahan served as state director of Illinois’ Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

During her 30 years in broadcasting, Callahan served as the first female president of the National Association of Broadcasters and was the first woman inducted in the organization’s Hall of Fame.

Callahan is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband Dick raise cattle and grow corn and soybeans on their Peoria County farm.