SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today named new directors to two key agencies involved in responding to homeland security threats. Larry G. Trent was appointed director of the Illinois State Police, and William C. Burke was appointed director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). In addition, the governor further strengthened Illinois’ homeland security leadership team by naming Mike Chamness the new chair of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. Chamness has served as director of IEMA for the past four years.
Blagojevich also addressed the level of heightened security as the nation prepares for a possible war with Iraq. The governor outlined several measures taken since the nation was placed on Orange alert on Monday evening, including: (1) activating the State Emergency Operating Center so that all key decision makers among state agencies are ready to act immediately should the need arise; (2) placing the state’s special response teams – including the Weapons of Mass Destruction team, the Emergency Medical Response team, and the Hazardous Materials team – on alert (Illinois is the only state in the nation with its own Weapons of Mass Destruction teams); (3) elevating health surveillance and monitoring systems; (4) increasing the frequency and level of testing of the water supply system; and (5) increasing security at critical infrastructure around the state. The governor also stressed that the state is in constant contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“My message today to the people of Illinois is to stay calm, and go about your business as usual. I know that’s easier said than done, but rest assured, we are fully prepared for any threat that could come our way,” Blagojevich said.
“As our entire nation faces intensifying security threats, Illinois stands ready and prepared to respond,” Blagojevich continued. “I am putting in place leaders who are experienced and well-prepared to direct a response to a terrorist attack in our state. With these additions to my cabinet and a full-time commitment to the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, Illinois is in an even better position to deal with acts of terrorism.”
The Governor’s appointments announced today reflect his commitment to maintaining a strong network of public safety officials to lead Illinois’ terrorism preparedness efforts. Larry Trent, 55, is a decorated Army veteran who served 22 years in the Illinois State Police starting in 1971. During his tenure, he held a variety of investigative and managerial positions and supervised more than 400 employees in 41 southern Illinois counties. He provided expert testimony for the Office of the Attorney General and frequently testified before legislative committees. He taught courses on criminal and constitutional law for the Illinois State Police Academy.
“Larry Trent has a detailed understanding of the duties and operations of the Illinois State Police,” Blagojevich said. “His experience in law enforcement and proven management ability will be valuable tools as he directs the state police force to meet its expanded responsibilities.”
After leaving the state police in 1993, Trent served as vice president for Argosy Gaming Company, overseeing security and investigations, and was southern regional manager for the Special Olympics of Illinois. Since 2000, he has been president of the Growth Association of Southwestern Illinois, a regional chamber of commerce that represents more than 650 businesses.
Trent served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and was awarded numerous commendations, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He grew up in East Alton, and now lives in Brighton, Illinois.
Burke, 61, served as regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration. He directed logistics in a six-state region with over 1,000 employees. He managed annual budgets of $300 to $400 million, and served as the agency’s liaison to other federal agencies as well as congressional, state and local judicial officials.
Burke is also a decorated Army veteran who served in Vietnam and the National Reserves. During his military service, he received several commendations, including the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
Burke also served as Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Military Affairs, 33rd Infantry Brigade, where he developed and implemented the yearly training program for the 600-person battalion. He currently works as marketing director for Teng & Associates, a Chicago architectural engineering firm. Burke is a native of Hyde Park, Illinois, where he now resides.
“Bill Burke has an outstanding record of managing people and complex functions,” the governor said. “He is eminently qualified to fill the shoes left by Mike Chamness as he leaves to focus on the work of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The two of them together will provide outstanding leadership and coordination with law enforcement at all levels to deliver on homeland security.”
Mike Chamness, 49, has served as the Director of IEMA for the last four years, leading the efforts of the Illinois’ Terrorism Task Force to develop and implement a statewide strategy for domestic preparedness to terrorist attack.
In the past, the director of IEMA served as the task force chair, but due to the ongoing need for increased coordination with law enforcement, emergency personnel and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, both the task force and IEMA require full-time leadership.