Hartke has had a tough job as director with a Governor's administration that is under federal investigation and had cut funding to the department several times. In 2005 the administration proposed implementing several taxes and fee's on agriculture that brought loud outrage from the farming community and others.
Hartke's decision was based on the need to care for his wife who is undergoing chemo therapy:
He said he leaves the job, which pays $128,394 annually, with mixed emotions.
“I have made a lot of friends,” he said, but there remains much to do, and there is “always going to be lots of work to be done in agriculture, lots of challenges every day.”
Hartke, a former president of the Effingham County Pork Producers, served in the House starting in 1985 and later befriended another member, Chicagoan Rod Blagojevich, who became governor in 2003. Once in the state’s top office, Blagojevich named Hartke to run the agriculture department.
“This is a dream come true,” Hartke said in 2003 after the Senate confirmed his appointment. “I always thought I could provide leadership for the farmers of Illinois.”
Hartke said he thinks that during his tenure, “I have promoted agriculture in the state of Illinois and have provided safe food for the people of the state. Our meat-inspection program is great. Our weights and measures is going well.”