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McHenry County Pillars: Fox River Grove resident Dan Shea

Dan Shea has a million stories in his head.

Sit down with him long enough, and he’ll get through a fair number of them.

At 79, the Fox River Grove resident has many years of experience in government and politics to draw from.

Shea’s résumé includes 25 years at American Can Co.’s research center in Barrington, 15 years as a Fox River Grove police officer, 12 years as a McHenry County Board member,
10 years as Fox River Grove village president and eight years with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

He also served with the Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Auxiliary, Lakewood Resource Center Intervention Program, Fox Waterway Advisory Committee and the McHenry County Conservation Foundation.

Many residents know Shea as a quick-quipping character on the Algonquin Township board.

A McHenry County resident since 1956, he lives in a family home built in the early 1900s. Shea sat down with the Northwest Herald to talk about love, life and the credo he believes helped him on his journey.

On his origin story:

I wasn’t raised in McHenry County, but my family was here, of course, so I was here all the time. My grandparents passed away, and that house became my mother and father’s. It was my mother’s parents’.

That was in 1955. I could’ve moved out here, but because of the state of public education in Chicago, I would’ve had to put in another year of high school. Now, a good friend of mine from the neighborhood, he came out here in 1955, and all he had to do – he went to a Catholic school – was get two more credits. I moved here full time in 1956.

On when he first got involved
in the community:

Remember, Fox River Grove was not what you see now. It was much smaller. In 1964, I became a policeman. It was a different world. Police departments didn’t have full-time, around-the-clock police, so they hired significant numbers of part-time police that worked as full-time police most of the time. When I was 17, my father passed away, and I set my mind up with two choices: I could go to school and become an engineer and work until I’m 65 and retire. Or, because I’m in good enough shape, I can work all I want now on all kinds of jobs – and at times, I carried two full-time and two to three part-time jobs. I made up my mind that I would take that route.

On the last regular job he ever had:

I basically took a voluntary separation from American Can Co. research center in Barrington when I was 47, and that’s the last regular job I had to have. I could’ve gotten out of there sooner, except it was such a wonderful company. I started with them in late 1962. I was going to work two weeks; I stayed 25 years.

On where he got his work ethic:

My dad. Plus, it helps a lot to have Irish blood. I’m half-Irish and half-Bohemian, so I’m cheap and I could talk a good story. (Laughter).

On the importance
of being an individual:

I’m pretty much an individual. Just because someone comes running and yelling, “Oh my God! Oh my God! This is terrible! What’s going on?” First, I say, “Wait a minute, what’s really going on?” You have to look at things in some level of depth.

On his partner, Claudia:

We’ve been together for almost
19 years.

On making a relationship work:

(With a smirk) I’m a good listener.

On how they met:

You can’t imagine the weird things in this world. Her and I were somewhere, and she’s mentioning her Social Security number and the last four digits are 5716, and I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” That’s mine. Can you imagine? The two of us have the last four numbers the same.

On the art of talking
with constituents:

One of the reasons I got elected was as a policeman, I stopped and talked to people to keep busy. Most of my support from 30 years ago is dead or moved on.

On navigating the politics
of McHenry County:

First off, I was Dan Shea, Fox River Grove citizen. I walked down the street to old Village Hall, went up the stairs and was the village president because most of government is common sense. It’s gotten more to this guilt by accusation. I have a tendency, generally, to evaluate things and think them out first. I became – some years later, when it was much more civil – a Republican committeeman. I did that for a number of years. I still get requests to run for village president or the County Board. But I did
10 years at the village, and I did
12 years at the county, and [there are] so many other things I’ve been involved in. A year ago in April, because I didn’t care for the way the Republican Party was being run, I resigned as precinct committeeman, and they didn’t even have the class to notify (former GOP chairwoman) Sandy Salgado that I had resigned.

On the state of the
McHenry County GOP:

I just don’t care for a number of these people. Maybe because I’m a bit of a dinosaur. The people got along better – there was none of this infighting.

On how he spends his down time:

I haven’t been heavily into figuring out what I’m going to do with any time. There are things I enjoy. I may have lived too long to do it – to see some of the railroad stuff and things like that.

On what advice he would give to a young person hoping to have an effect in the community:

In my case, in all these years, I’ve only had one thing that bothered me about decisions in government. It doesn’t matter to me whether I like someone or not. If they can do the job, that’s what you look for. You don’t really care who donated the blood they put in your arm to save your life. That’s what I’ve always said. I don’t care. If the people can do the job, they get the job. Simple as that. Don’t start cranking other kinds of things in there. I have an ideology. No one ever worked for me. They worked with me, and I had tremendous loyalty. But I also could drop things. That’s the key, I think. A lot of things are compromise. I’ll give you a good example. It’s the department head’s job to ask for stuff – all kinds of stuff – and it’s up to the board to say no. But you can’t say 100 percent no.

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