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A familiar face in local government

Duffy worked for Grundy County prior to current role

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:14 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

Minooka Village Administrator Dan Duffy has been a familiar face in the area from way before his last two years with Minooka.

If you didn’t come across him at a board meeting when he was the administrator for Grundy County for four years, you probably encountered him during his five years with the Grundy Economic Development Council.

Although he is from a little south of here, Duffy is no stranger to the villages and cities of Grundy County. His farming and Peace Corps background makes him an asset to this growing rural community.

And believe it or not, in between running the village of Minooka, he volunteers for numerous non-profits, and is raising three kids all under the age of 8. All of this leaves him little free time, but as the weather warms up he will make sure to make time for the occasional Harley ride.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was raised in a rural area of Blackstone, Ill. (west of Dwight) and graduated from Dwight Township High School. I enrolled in agriculture classes at JJC then onto Illinois State University.

I worked and owned a small construction company, but soon after graduating from college, I joined the Peace Corps, which led me into working with Government and non-profits.

When I came back, I entered the Peace Corps Fellows program for my Masters and interned with the Village of Dwight, and essentially led to managing municipalities.

Q: Describe your experience with the Peace Corps, when you spent a year working on economic development in the Solomon Islands. Do you miss the weather?

A: The Peace Corps did so much for me and my experience was incredible, but in short, it gave me perspective on life, and a shot of humility that only comes from living and learning with other cultures.

As an agroforestry worker, I developed international timber markets for local villages. The not-for-profit I worked for offered an alternative to large scale logging of land, and I taught people how to utilize mobile saw mills and market their product. One of my big initiatives was to teach people how Americans truly were and not what they saw in movies.

But the reality was my Solomon friends taught me more than I  could ever have given them. And for the weather, believe it or not, I actually missed the Illinois changing of seasons.

Q: You spent four years as Grundy County administrator. Looking back, how would you describe your time working for the county, and how did that differ from your current role?

A: It was a great opportunity for a young guy with municipal background, to learn how to manage on a larger stage. Definitely a rewarding job in that you could often see your public service results directly, whether it was bringing in new jobs and businesses, or simply helping people directly with their concerns.

I believe understanding good money management, and how that relates to the responsibilities that local governments have, is key in any successful government operation. It’s the same at the Village of Minooka in my current role as the administrator. Only difference is a smaller budget and not as many elected officials to work with.

Q: Considering the recurring debate in Grundy County, do you feel the county is best suited with a full-time, part-time or not having an administrator? And why?

A: Really, it’s not my position to answer that. It’s up to the elected officials and how they want to manage the government body.

I will say, it has been my experience in any service type work environment, public or private, proper daily management is a must. How that form of management is addressed falls to the trustees, board of directors or whomever is in charge.

Q: Describe your role with the village of Minooka. What makes your position vital to the operations and successes of the village?

A: As the administrator, I am in charge of the day-to-day operations. Many of the trustees work and gather at committees meetings to give myself and staff direction on village issues, financial planning and policy making.

The key to this position is to be able to balance the daily management issues (employees, resident’s concern, etc.) with the larger responsibilities of a municipality like maintaining streets, water, sewer and safety for our residents. Those core responsibilities are always ongoing and cost money, and it’s the village’s responsibility to the public to maintain those services 24/7.

In short, I consider this position as a “point man” for the village — attending meetings on the village behalf, representing our interested across the area and watching out for our concerns. But the reality is to be successful in this position, it starts at the top with my board and village president giving guidance and direction along with a good staff backing me, of which I am very much appreciative of.

Q: As signs seem to indicate improvement in the economy, what is your outlook for the Village of Minooka?

A: The signs are clear in various parts of the village, where construction equipment is moving and folks are working. From our residential neighborhoods seeing new homes being built (averaged about 30 per year over the last four years), to our industrial and warehousing sectors where over the last two years we added about 2 million square feet of new logistic space and about an estimated 600-plus jobs.

I visit counterparts around the area, and comparatively speaking, Minooka’s is growing in a positive direction.

Q: What are some of the improvements, projects or plans the Village of Minooka is working on that its residents can look forward to in the near or even distant future?

A: Currently, we are trying to finish up one of our newest parks, Summit Park, which includes tree plantings, and finishing the trails and playground equipment associated with it. This park is one of our busiest, mainly due to that addition of another Splash Pad in the village which draws folks from all over the area and is a good example of how the board is staying on top of things that people want to have in their community.

Also, we are planning on getting our top safety project underway later in the year, that being the McEvilly Road Bike Path from Lions Park down to the Dupage River area. This is a project the Village has been working on for about eight-plus years and is finally going to happen.

Lastly, every year we have constant utility upkeep and road building or reconstruction. Many people don’t think about these projects, mainly because a lot of the utilities are out of site and below ground. One of our major construction projects we are currently still planning is the widening of the CN Rail Bridge over Ridge Road. Working with the county of Grundy over the next few years, we’d like to alleviate that two-lane bottleneck and make it four lanes with a bike path. Funding for the majority of the project was identified this year and people can look forward to the project taking place in the next few years. After that barrier is relieved, the widening of Ridge Road will be the next challenge.

Q: While working for the Grundy Economic Development Council, you were credited with playing a major role in attracting about $190 million in new investment in the county. How has your previous work with the GEDC benefited you in your current role with the village?

A: I keep in touch with brokers I’ve done business with in the past, and when they have clients,  I work to bring them to Minooka.

Relationship building is key economic development and attracting quality jobs and investment to an area. If a broker knows you, trusts you, he can save a lot of time and research going to villages and cities that are pro-business and invest in infrastructure to attract new jobs and investment. I found you have to stay active in the economic development world, without the time and effort businesses won’t show up at your doorstep.
Q: What community organizations are you active with and why do you feel it important to provide your time and efforts to these groups?

A: Not only do you need to be in touch with residents and businesses at this job, but one can learn a lot about a community by working and volunteering side-by-side with individuals.

This year, I’m president of the United Way of Grundy County, and am very proud to say over the last seven years I’ve been part of a very dynamic organization that gives back to a very generous community.

I’ve also been volunteering with PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) for the past few years, and have been with the Minooka Lions club every since joining the Village of Minooka.

Q: Specifically, you are president of the United Way of Grundy County’s Board of Directors. What exactly does United Way do for the community and what do you accomplish for United Way in your role on the board?

A: The United Way of Grundy County is grateful to the many Individuals, businesses, corporations and their employees that donate funding support to our organization.

The money donated goes back to various non-profits in the Grundy County Community, specifically to 27 community partner agencies. Those agencies efforts vary from helping with the disabled in our area, to furnish daily meals to the elderly, support the victims of violence and even, most recently stocking various food pantries throughout the County. We also volunteer our time as a board to help various agencies with their needs, and one of our biggest accomplishments this year was, after a very successful fundraising campaign last year, we awarded 18 not-for-profit agencies with a special one-time mini grant totaling more than $40,000 to serve individuals, children, and families in Grundy County. And forgive me, but I have to put a plug in if folks want to get involved and learn more to call the United Way office at (815) 942-4430.

Q: In your spare time, it’s my understanding you still work on your family’s farm. What keeps you involved in helping with the farm?

A: I come from a very tight farming community west of Dwight in Sunbury Township, where everyone helps each other out.

My family is lucky in that we have had a great farming partnership with another family for 30 years. Together there are several generations that help ranging from 70 to 7 (my son Jack), and like many farming families, we take a lot of pride in that.

But at the end of the day, I’m a guy, and guys like to operate heavy machinery, work on things, and get dirty — all part of farming.

Q: How did the drought this past summer impact your family’s farm?

A: I never, in my lifetime, saw yields that low, and I think my dad might have seen it once in his career, but it was the one time where having insurance paid off. Like any business, there is risk, and farming is probably one of the riskiest businesses to be in.

Q: Does your agriculture background help in your current job with the village? How?

A: Absolutely, as I feel more grounded and in touch with smaller, rural communities like Minooka. On the business side, I understand the equipment and mechanical needs associated with running a village, and on the personal side, my parents were open and social people, so naturally my  door is always open — no appointments needed for anyone.

Q: What advice would you give to a student looking to pursue a career like yours?

A: A good administrator or anyone involved in public service should be able to talk with people, listen and learn. Good facilitating and public speaking skills are a must. Lastly, grow thick skin and understand you can’t always please everyone.

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JUST FOR FUN

Q: What is your favorite hobby?

A: Used to be playing rugby, football, basketball and softball, but as I got married and became an aging father, it’s now coaching that stuff. I like taking the family boating and camping in the summer, but I also enjoy “dad time” on the Harley.

Q: What is your favorite music?

A: I’m simple — anything country  as I’m a farm boy at heart. But I do enjoy a little STP (Stone Temple Pilots) while in the garage.

Q: What is your favorite movie and TV show?

A: Movie, would have to be The Natural because it’s a great sports movie, and TV show ... don’t have much time with night meetings at the village and coaching, but between the wife’s “Greys Anatomy” and kids’ “SpongeBob” I sneak in some SportsCenter.

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JUST THE FACTS

• WHO: Dan Duffy

• AGE: 37

• TOWN: Minooka, Ill.

• HOMETOWN: Blackstone, Ill.

• EDUCATION: Illinois State University

• JOB: Administrator, Village of Minooka

• FAMILY: Married to Jill for 10 years; children include Jack, Lilly & Joe

• HIGHLIGHTS: Twelve years working with local government; United Way board member; council member for St. Patrick’s Church; past member of Rotary Club and Kiwanis

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