The voters gave McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Nick Chirikos a new hat to wear Nov. 6. The Algonquin Township resident was elected to the McHenry County Board, where he will represent part of the county’s heavily populated southeast corner as a Democrat.
Senior reporter Kevin Craver was on hand when Chirikos and eight other newcomers were sworn in last Monday. A fellow history buff, Craver talked to Chirikos about his interests in history, politics and motorcycles.
Craver: When did you become interested in history?
Chirikos: My interest actually started in high school. I never majored in history, but I developed my interest all through college when I majored in political science and worked in election campaigns. After college, I moved briefly to the University of Denver, and I started researching the mining around Breckenridge, where I lived. When I moved back to Illinois – here, actually – I started researching the history of the barn on my property, and it developed more from there.
Craver: And your interest in politics?
Chirikos: I went to college from 1966 to 1970. Those were the peak turmoil years of the Vietnam War, and it really fired my interest in political involvement and political activism.
Craver: Speaking of your barn, you mentioned some barn group in your acceptance speech that I never heard of.
Chirikos: It’s a different group from the [Historic Preservation Commission] – the McHenry County Historical Barn Preservation Association. ... Right after it formed in the late 1990s, I became involved with some of the founding members and their work. The highlights of those years were the barn tours, which lasted until 2008 or 2009. Membership dwindled, several board members passed away, and I was getting more and more involved in the historic preservation commission. I joined that and because of my workload, I had to drop the other one.
Craver: So what about your barn?
Chirikos: Like most barns in the more populated areas like Algonquin Township, these barns are mostly used for storage or are converted for homes. Mine is used for storage. I put a lot of money into it over the years. It’s a local icon – real pretty.
Craver: How old?
Chirikos: Near as I can ascertain, 1895, built by Jason Minard.
Craver: You have to run again in 2014 because of redistricting. What’s your top priority?
Chirikos: My main focus right now is to try to draw people in my district into the political process, and I want to involve them in as many issues as I can. I want to set up a series of what I call civic engagement workshops, precinct by precinct, homeowners associations, neighborhood groups, however I can reach out to them.
I spent nine months canvassing this district and knocked on well over 2,000 doors. The overwhelming majority neither knew about the County Board nor cared to know. This is an urban [district] where communities encompass more than 80 percent of the population. People as a result know little of county issues. I hope to change that.
Taxes are another major issue with me. People don’t understand their property tax bills. All they understand is that they have to pay them.
Craver: Your plan sounds like it’s going to take up a lot of your time. You have any hobbies?
Chirikos: Many. I ride a motorcycle, and for the last 15 years, I’ve ridden BMWs. During the summer, my wife and I do long-range riding and camping.
Craver: One more question, regarding your favorite food: What’s Greek spaghetti?
Chirikos: Oh. It’s the pasta with the hollow center [bucatini]. The sauce is made from a scorched butter with mizithra cheese on top of it. Another hobby of mine is cooking.
The Chirikos lowdown
Who is he? Nick Chirikos, McHenry County Board member and business owner
Family? Wife, Debbie; two grown daughters; three grandchildren
Favorite book? “Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America” by Kerry A. Trask
Favorite food? Greek spaghetti