SPRINGFIELD –-(ENEWSPF)–January 13, 2015. U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran Harry F. Sawyer, a 33-year state employee, was designated to serve as the Interim Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) effective today. Sawyer takes over in the place of the departing Acting Director, Rodrigo Garcia.
This change is part of the transition of the incoming administration of Governor Bruce Rauner, amid an ongoing selection process to determine the future leadership for the IDVA. The selection was made by Garcia, in coordination with Governor Rauner’s Transition Team.
“I am honored for being selected as the Interim Director for the IDVA,” said Sawyer. “I look forward to working with the great IDVA team while continuing to provide professional services, support, and engagement with the over 721,000 veterans and their family members across Illinois. I am grateful to Governor Rauner for this opportunity and the efforts of our previous IDVA leaders. We will stay focused on continuity of operations and maintaining support to our veterans.”
As the interim director, Sawyer will oversee the state-wide operations of the IDVA, which has the mission to empower veterans and their families to thrive. The IDVA assists them in navigating the system of federal, state, and local resources and benefits; by providing long-term health care for eligible veterans in the four Illinois Veterans’ Homes; and by partnering with other agencies and non-profits to help veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges. The IDVA has 1,332 personnel and an annual budget of $147 million, with the Central Office headquarters located in Springfield and an operational presence in the Thompson Center.
Sawyer joined the IDVA in 1982 as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO), has worked for over three decades in helping veterans and surviving family members to obtain benefits earned through military service. Selected as the North Division Supervisor for other VSOs, Sawyer later became the Field Services Manager in 2005, overseeing the selection, training, certification, and daily operations of the IDVA’s state-wide VSO offices and outreach events.
As a young man, Sawyer enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served aboard the USS Agerholm (DD 826), including a tour of duty off the coast of Vietnam. Completing his enlistment in 1970, he received an honorable discharge and returned to Illinois where he worked as a florist until 1979, when he began assisting his fellow veterans as a service officer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Sawyer is a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other organizations. Originally from Hillside, he and his wife Diane reside in Lombard, Illinois.