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Ill. emergency management director weathers storms

Published: Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 1:18 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — Jonathon Monken has weathered some tough storms in his nearly three years as Illinois Emergency Management Agency director.

In the past year alone Monken has led Illinois' response to massive flooding, deadly tornadoes and the recent severe cold.

Monken tells Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises that each disaster has a "rock-bottom point."

"There's always a point where there are so many of these circumstances that you can't control," Monken said. During the stretch of record-shattering low temperatures and snow earlier this month, he said, that rock-bottom point came when about 400 cars became stuck along interstates 57 and 70 near Effingham. The state needed help from the Illinois National Guard to get everyone to safety.

Monken said he learned to remain calm in those situations while serving in the military from 2002 to 2007.

Now one of Gov. Pat Quinn's longest-serving appointees, Monken's tenure with the administration has had its own rough patches.

Quinn originally appointed Monken in March 2009 to head the Illinois State Police, but senators refused to confirm the appointment because he had no formal police training. He resigned that post in February 2011 and was immediately named to take over the emergency management agency.

John Millner, a former police chief and state senator who is now a lobbyist, opposed Monken's appointment to the Illinois State Police but supported him for director of IEMA. He said Monken gained valuable experience during his two years with the state police.

"Sometimes he makes decisions that are difficult to make," Millner said. "Sometimes people don't like them, but he's able to do what it takes to lead the emergency management agency."

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