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Longtime Wonder Lake Chamber president retires

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 4:59 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 11:03 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Grillot –
Former president of the Wonder Lake Chamber of Commerce, Dennis Palys, poses for a portrait outside his Wonder Lake home. Palys led the Chamber for more than a decade and has been an active member of the Wonder Lake community since the 1980s, when he worked alongside others to build roads in the community. Palys plans to stay active in the Chamber, but is focused on his role as a member of village board.

WONDER LAKE – When Dennis Palys joined the Wonder Lake Yacht Club, he was quick to learn all the lingo and was out on the water each Sunday, a friend said.

The Wonder Lake resident has served as the Wonder Lake Chamber of Commerce president for 15 years, was a member of his subdivision’s association, and has been volunteering for several other area clubs and organizations.

“I realized I wasn’t going to have a voice in big issues, but I can have a voice in small issues,” Palys said.

He’s the man who organizes the July 4 fireworks each year. When his subdivision wanted paved roads, he was one of the people out on the heavy equipment, getting the roads prepped. He helped bring leaf pickup to Wonder Lake to cut back on the amount of leaf burning.

“[The smoke] was horrendous,” Palys said. “If you had any type of breathing problem, you had to leave.”

Dick Hilton, a good friend of Palys’, sees Palys quite often. The Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association, of which Hilton is president, has its office at the Chamber.

“When he get involves, it’s not a surface involvement,” Hilton said. “He really gets into it.”

When Palys joined the Chamber, his main goal was annexation, which he thought would help the village, which is divided by a lake and split among different townships and school districts, have a place to address local issues.

He became interested in the topic after a petition to change the name of a street in his subdivision was nearly held up by the County Board.

At this point, about half of Wonder Lake has been annexed.

Since April, Palys has assumed a new role in the village.

After several unsuccessful runs for the McHenry County Board, he decided to run for village trustee, and a few months after taking office, he decided to retire as Chamber president, though he still plans on being active member of the Chamber.

Village President Tony Topf expects Palys to take on the board like he’s taken on all his roles, getting into the trenches and getting things done.

“He’s the kind of person who will dig in and get down to it,” Topf said. “He’s the type of person who will ask for help if he needs it, but if there’s not, he’ll do it himself, which you need to be able to do because there’s not always help.”

“I have developed this little saying that people volunteer and do things based on their definition of self,” Palys said. “If you have a broad definition of self, you go out and do a lot of work because you see that everything else benefits you. The roads benefited me. The work I did at the Chamber benefits me. All these volunteer things I get a benefit from.”

Palys plans on pursuing annexation on the Village Board, in particular getting the business district annexed, and he sees several other big issues on the horizon, including the Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association’s dredging project.

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