Committee OKs Johnson as executive director of Pollution Control Board

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois Senate committee unanimously approved the appointment of Urbana attorney Thomas E. Johnson as executive director of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Johnson, 58, is the brother of former U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana.

He had served on the five-member pollution control board from 2001 to 2012.

"The job is significantly different as executive director," Johnson said, "because as a board member each member is assigned a parcel of cases and they act as the lead judge, so to speak, on that particular case. Then the board as a whole votes on each case. It's a quasi-judicial position.

"We're quasi-legislative as well with each board member conducting public hearings on rule-making, and then writes the rule with the entire board voting on it. My job now is essentially administrative. And the board as a whole is my boss, setting my duties and responsibilities."

A Republican, Johnson was sponsored in the Senate Executive Appointments Committee on Tuesday morning by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.

"This isn't that unusual," Frerichs said of the bipartisanship. "It might seem unusual, but it's not like we just picked someone off the street who was a Republican hack. We picked someone who had a lot of experience in the agency."

Johnson has been running the 23-employee pollution control board since last summer, when Gov. Pat Quinn named him to head the agency, which is headquartered in Springfield.

"I really commend the governor for not letting politics affect the appointment, but for going with who he thought was the best person for the job," Johnson said.

The appointment still must be approved by the full Senate.

Johnson would be paid $117,000 a year as director of the agency.

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