Two months after he opted not to seek re-election to the Lake County Board -- thus avoiding a Democratic primary race against the woman he's called a mentor -- Commissioner Angelo Kyle has landed a state job paying $95,000 a year, officials have confirmed.
Kyle, of Waukegan, is the newest deputy director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's office of regional outreach, a spokeswoman for that agency said. His official start date was Wednesday.
The office focuses on job creation and its workers serve "as the eyes and ears" for outreach efforts, agency spokeswoman Marcelyn Love said. The deputy's job was open because of earlier staffing changes, she said.
The staff has offices in Springfield and Chicago, but Kyle "can be based anywhere and do this job," Love said.
Kyle is set to earn $44,073 this fiscal year for his work as a county board member. He earns an additional $3,000 for serving on the county's forest preserve district board, which consists as the same 23 members.
Kyle said he plans to balance the responsibilities of both jobs and will continue serving on the county board until his term ends in December.
"It's not a problem," he said. "(I'm) looking forward to the new opportunity."
Kyle's hiring drew fire from Lake County Republican Party Chairman Bob Cook.
"I think it's the good old Democratic boys taking care of one of their own at the taxpayers' expense," said Cook, of Wauconda.
Cook's Democratic Party counterpart, state Sen. Terry Link, said Kyle followed proper procedures when applying for the job. Kyle sat for three or four interviews before being hired, Link said.
"He went through an extensive interview process just like any other person would have," said Link, who called Kyle's credentials "impeccable."
Kyle is the county's third longest-serving commissioner.
In addition to his political service, Kyle has worked as a consultant for Integrys Energy Services, the parent company of People's Gas. He also is a pastor at St. Matthew Missionary Baptist Church in Waukegan, served a term as president of the National Association of Counties and has worked with other community organizations.
He formerly worked seven years for the Illinois secretary of state's office.
Kyle also unsuccessfully ran for the 60th District state House seat in 2008 and 2010. He lost primary races both times.
Kyle represents the county board's 12th District in Waukegan. But the Lake County Board's recent redistricting effort -- which was based on the 2010 Census figures and included the elimination of two county posts -- put his home in the 14th District.
That district now is represented by North Chicago Democrat Audrey Nixon, the panel's senior member and a Kyle political ally.
In early December, Kyle called Nixon a mentor and said he didn't want to run against her. But he also told the Daily Herald her continued candidacy wasn't the only reason he was going to leave the board.
"I think I've kind of outgrown the position," Kyle said at the time. "I've reached the pinnacle of my career."
Kyle also talked of the need "to seek greener pastures."
On Friday, Kyle said he had pursued several job opportunities last year. He spoke philosophically about how the county redistricting effort coincided with that search.
"Things happen for a reason," he said.
Kyle dismissed any criticism of his new employment as coming from "the same naysayers" who have targeted Democrats in the past.
Kyle's new job begins as Gov. Pat Quinn is taking heat for hiring former Democratic state Rep. Bob Flider as the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Flider, of downstate Mount Zion, was among the lawmakers who voted for Quinn's tax increase in 2011, and several who have since left office now have state jobs.
Quinn was not involved in the process that led to Kyle's hiring, Love said. The move was approved Feb. 10 following a recommendation from DCEO Director Warren Ribley, she said.
Kyle's years of public service experience should be "incredibly helpful" to the agency, Love said.
David Morrison, the deputy director of a government watchdog group called the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, wasn't surprised Kyle would be seen as well qualified for the state post. Elected officials often are very capable and bright people "who are also in regular contact with broad and diverse communities."
But at the same time, constituents have a right to know their elected representatives speak for them "and are not trading on that public office for private gain, in the form of their next job," Morrison said.
County board Chairman David Stolman, a Buffalo Grove Republican, said he hopes Kyle can be an influential advocate for local economic development.
"I think it probably could help Lake County," Stolman said. "We've been trying to get the governor more involved in Lake County to help salvage businesses (here)."
Kyle isn't the only North suburban Democratic politician to land a well-paying job with the state commerce department in recent years.
Wilmette resident Dan Seals, who three times ran for Congress in the 10th District, was hired in 2011 as an assistant director in the department, a $121,090-a-year post.
Seals' state job required Senate confirmation. Kyle's job does not.