Gov. Bruce Rauner has tapped an SIU graduate and Johnson County native to head his communications department.

Vienna native Lance Trover, who served as senior communications adviser for Rauner's successful gubernatorial campaign, has been named the governor's communications director. 

His selection comes as no surprise to former Gov. Jim Edgar's press secretary Mike Lawrence, who taught Trover in a "Politics in the Media" class at SIU and mentored him while serving as director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

"He was an outstanding student," Lawrence said. "I knew then that he would have a bright future if he decided to go into politics."

Trover got his start in politics early in life, attending Johnson County Republican Women meetings with his great aunt Phyllis Taylor, who died this past summer.

Those meetings helped develop a love for politics that carried him into his previous role as communications director for U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and deputy communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"He’s just a great guy personally and he loves politics and elections," said Matt Baughman, who worked alongside Trover at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. "It’s fun to watch somebody follow his passion and find success doing what he loves to do."

Trover called on Lawrence for advice before joining the Rauner campaign and before accepting the communications director position.

"He had the option of returning to Sen. Kirk's staff," Lawrence said. "I told him I thought it would be a good move to go into the governor's office. It would give him a different experience than he has had working in the U.S. Senate as a staff member."

Lawrence said the SIU Law School graduate's intellect, listening skills and solid values will serve him well in his new position.

"His values are those of someone who grew up in Southern Illinois and he has a great deal of respect for the responsibilities that public service carries with it," Lawrence said.

When Lawrence served as Edgar's press secretary, he was intricately involved in policy discussions — something he said isn't always afforded to those in the position, but is vital for communicating the governor's message effectively. 

"It allowed me the opportunity to give my viewpoint, but also it helped me to understand why the governor decided to make particular decisions, so I will anticipate Lance will be involved in those discussions," Lawrence said.

Having a Southern Illinois voice at the governor's table of advisers could prove valuable to the region. Trover is a 1998 graduate of Vienna High School. 

Lawrence anticipates most of Rauner's advisers will hail from the Chicago area, so Trover's presence could be one of the few voices "who has a sense of the needs and challenges of Southern Illinois."

Lawrence also advised his former student to take time from his busy schedule to soak in the opportunity he has in front of him.

"There's a tendency to ignore the fact that you're having this opportunity to serve the people of Illinois at the highest level of their state government," Lawrence said. "It's hard to smell the roses, and it's hard to have that perspective when you're in a foxhole."


Chris Hottensen is the entertainment and features reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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