A member of Eastern’s Board of Trustees could potentially be running for office in the future, though he has yet to make a final decision.
During a news conference reported on by the Herald and Review, trustee Dan Caulkins confirmed his interest in running for state Rep. Bill Mitchell’s seat in the House of Representatives.
Mitchell held the conference to announce that he will not seek re-election in 2018.
According to the Herald and Review, Caulkins was one of six people identified by Macon County Republican Chairman Bruce Pillsbury as possible replacements for Mitchell.
Caulkins said he has been weighing his options regarding whether to run or not and is very close to making a decision about officially running for the position.
“It’s a difficult decision,” he said. “(It would) be a really big commitment on my part.”
Caulkins said he has been talking about it with his wife and friends.
The time commitment is one factor he is considering, as well whether or not he wants to expose himself and his wife to the “political process.”
“You look at anyone that puts themselves up for election and they immediately become a target of one side or another, one faction or another,” Caulkins said.
However, Caulkins said if he does choose to run, he thinks he has something to offer.
“I think that my background, my life experience adds something to the discussion,” he said. “Right now the big issue for me is to decide if this is something I really want to do.”
Caulkins would not be able to continue being an Eastern trustee if he were to be elected as a state representative.
According to 110 ILCS 665, no Board of Trustees member “shall be an employee of the State Government.”
Candidates wanting to run for office in the November 2018 general elections can take out a nominating petition starting Sept. 5.
Formerly the vice president and COO of Patterson House Inc., which operates homes for adults with developmental disabilities, Caulkins sold his share of the business to his partner last September. He and his brother now own a supported assisted living facility called Franciscan Court in West Chicago.
Caulkins served on the Decatur City Council from 2005 to 2009.
After Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected, Caulkins submitted an application through his website offering to serve in the governor’s administration in some capacity.
Caulkins was offered several positions based on his resume, but ultimately chose to be an Eastern trustee.
He declined to say what other positions were offered, but said he wanted to be a trustee because he is an alumnus of Eastern.
“I chose to accept a position on the Board of Trustees at Eastern because I believe in Eastern,” Caulkins said.
To become a member of the Board of Trustees, people apply online. The governor will appoint someone if there is a vacancy, then the Executive Appointments Committee confirms the person appointed to the position.
Caulkins’ appointment to fill the unexpired term of former trustee Robert Webb, who died on Oct. 5, 2015, was officially approved in Feb. ‘16 by the Executive Appointments Committee.
Approving his reappointment to a full term to the Board of Trustees was a task assigned to the Executive Appointments Committee on Aug. 17.
During appointment hearings, the governor’s appointees come in before the Executive Appointments Committee. The committee then asks the person about the office they are appointed to and their qualifications.
Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) is the minority spokesperson for the committee who confirmed Rauner’s appointment of Caulkins to the Board of Trustees.
Though it is still not certain whether or not Caulkins will run for office, if it starts to look like he will, it is something that could come up during his reappointment confirmation hearing, Righter said.
“If he was seriously exploring a run could that make his reappointment harder? Potentially,” Righter said. “At some point if it looks more and more like he’s going to do it, obviously myself, (and) a member of the legal staff will look at that.”
Righter said the reappointment process is usually easier, if the person coming before the hearing has done a competent job.
A hearing for Caulkins’ reappointment has not yet been scheduled. Righter said it probably will not be until October or November.
In the past few days, the Illinois Public Policy Institute’s Illinois News Network and NowDecatur.com have both quoted Caulkins as saying the GOP appalled him when it overrode Rauner’s veto on three bills this summer, which resulted in the state getting its first budget in three fiscal years.
“We got nothing out of (the override),” he said in the articles. “The people of Illinois got nothing but higher income taxes.”
Caulkins said he made these remarks because Illinois has a spending problem.
“None of that was really addressed in that budget bill; the only thing that was truly addressed in the budget bill was more revenue and raising taxes,” he said in an interview with The Daily Eastern News. “We got no reform, no spending caps, no reduction in spending.”
Though he did say there is a benefit to having a budget in place, he maintains the position that it would have been better for the state of the Illinois if the Senate and House had upheld the governor’s amendatory veto instead of their original budget plan.
“We still would have ended up with higher taxes, but we would have gotten something for it,” Caulkins said.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]