UI hires former state legislator as campus advocate

UI hires former state legislator as campus advocate

CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones has hired a former state legislator for a new campus-level job designed to strengthen ties with community leaders and state lawmakers across Illinois.

Robert Flider, former Democratic state representative and director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, will be the university's director of community and government relations effective April 23, pending approval by UI trustees. He will earn $137,500 annually.

Flider will be a senior adviser to Jones and a member of the chancellor's staff, working to build relationships with state government, the Champaign-Urbana community and other outside entities, the UI announced Thursday.

He will coordinate with the UI system's Office of Governmental Relations, which includes a director of state relations, Jennifer Creasey, and two lobbyists who work at the federal level, Director Paul Weinberger and Associate Director Melissa Haas.

"Robert brings to the job a proven record of building relationships with leaders from a wide array of perspectives," Jones said in the release. "In our discussions, he also demonstrated an eagerness to become deeply involved in our extended campus community. As we move forward in our outreach and partnership with people throughout the state and beyond, Robert will be a strong advocate for the campus vision and the mission of our land-grant university."

While Flider will help with lobbying efforts in Springfield, his primary job will be to work with Champaign-Urbana city governments and local leaders as well as help the chancellor and other campus officials connect with legislators and community leaders throughout the state, said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

"We have students from all legislative districts," she said, and it's important for legislators across Illinois to understand "why the university is an important asset to the state that should be resourced."

She said those tasks are now juggled by several administrators, including Creasey, Kaler and Associate Chancellor Michael DeLorenzo, who has served on community task forces and worked with local governments on issues such as Willard Airport.

Jones "has not had the level of staffing that previous chancellors have had," she said, although he is also hiring a new vice chancellor for diversity.

A journalism graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Flider represented the 101st District in the state House of Representatives from 2003-11. He was appointed agriculture director by former Gov. Patrick Quinn in 2012 and held that position until January 2015.

He previously worked in the utility industry and also was mayor of the village of Mount Zion from 1995 to 2003.