Part of Evelyn Sanguinetti’s job as Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor is to oversee the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council. The group works to create state policy to benefit rural residents.
In this role, the lieutenant governor can be a strong advocate for rural communities. It will be largely up to Sanguinetti to determine the priorities and goals for the council.
Sanguinetti is visiting with members of the council in preparation for the group’s first meeting this year in the spring.
Sanguinetti, a resident of the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, is using the meet-and-greets as an opportunity to learn more about the priorities of rural Illinois.
“I’m from the Chicagoland area, so they’ve enlightened me on everything that is going on,” Sanguinetti said.
“Bruce (Rauner) and I have toured the state. The farmers have spoken to me and have enlightened me throughout that last year-and-a-half. So now being the governor’s partner I plan to work hand-in-hand with the farmers and make their needs heard.”
During a stop at Western Illinois University, Sanguinetti visited with Dr. Chris Merrett, Director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs. Merrett said they discussed how there is more to rural areas than just agriculture. He said farmers only make up 4% of the rural workforce.
He said more rural Illinoisians are involved in manufacturing than agriculture.
“So we do want to focus on agriculture. It’s a huge industry in this state, but we don’t want to overlook the other economic sectors either. Manufacturing in non-metro Illinois is really important,” Merrett said.
He said 66 of Illinois' 102 counties are classified as non-metro. That’s a population of about 1.6 million.
Merrett said other priorities for rural Illinois include job creation, access to healthcare, and education.