A retirement reception in honor of Ken Zehnder is planned from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, in the University Suite of the Holmes Student Center.
Refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Joan Laurino at (815) 753-2253 or via e-mail at [email protected].
NIU’s director of state and local relations since 2009, Zehnder joined the university in 2001 as associate director for External Affairs. It was the final chapter in a long and distinguished career in Illinois government and, most recently, an Illinois House of Representatives resolution congratulating him.
He began his career working as a field coordinator for George H.W. Bush’s first Illinois presidential campaign and, in 1981, joined the office of the Illinois Secretary of State as an administrative assistant. He quickly was promoted through the ranks to become director of the departments of Human Resource and Senior Citizens.
In 1990, newly elected Gov. Jim Edgar appointed Zehnder as special assistant to the governor. In this role, Zehnder developed an automated processing system for candidate and incumbent resource information and assisted board nominees during their senate confirmation process.
Zehnder became director of the Illinois Department of Revenue in 1995. His major accomplishments included major upgrades to the taxpayer registration and identification system. He also coordinated a program that resulted in the doubling the collections of delinquent child support payments.
After joining NIU, he frequently testified before various legislative committees in Springfield on behalf of the university. Zehnder also led the effort among public university liaisons in Springfield to negotiate a compromise with Harper College that resulted in a new four-year degree program at Harper geared toward law enforcement and homeland security professionals.
He worked diligently and successfully to advocate for desperately needed state capital funds to renovate Cole Hall and the Stevens Building.
He also assisted NIU’s renowned broadband research and development group in securing a $2 million state match to access millions of dollars in federal funds to create a broadband network for rural areas in the northern part of the state.
Zehnder’s retirement plans include plenty of golf and horseback riding.