- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois’ Agriculture Department director and the director of its state fair have resigned, the governor’s office announced Thursday.

The reasons for Department of Agriculture Director Philip Nelson and state fair director Patrick Buchen resignations were not given.

“I appreciate Director Nelson’s commitment to agriculture and his service to the people of Illinois,” Governor Rauner said. “I wish him all the best.”

Rauner appointed current Department of Agriculture Chief of Staff Warren Goetsch as acting director. Nelson is expected to remain with the Agriculture Department for the next 30 days to help with the transition.

Rauner made a big deal of his appointment of Nelson in January, criticizing predecessor Bob Flider, a former state lawmaker, for not being a farmer. He said the department under former Gov. Pat Quinn was being run by “folks that generally don’t have much expertise.”

At the time of Nelson’s appointment, Flider called him a friend and later worked with him on the transition.

Nelson previously was president of the Illinois Farm Bureau. His farm near Seneca grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa and includes a cow-calf operation.

Buchen, a professional event planner from western Illinois farm who showed livestock at the Illinois State Fair, was named director of the annual agricultural showcase in May.

He was previously executive director of the Indiana State Fair; president of HSI Show Productions, an Indianapolis-based creator of “lifestyle events;” and executive director of the Texas Longhorn Cattle Breeders Association.

Figures from Buchen’s first Illinois fair showed about 411,500 people visited the fair from Aug. 13-23, more than 50 percent less than last year’s estimate of around 844,600 visitors. While he said he didn’t think the numbers were “cheated” in the past, he said the fair has seen between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors annually for at least the past decade.

No replacement for Buchen has been named.

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