Official doesn’t mince his words
Ferrone won’t leave Lee County Board quietly
DIXON – Lee County Board member John Ferrone is not the kind of guy to beat around the bush.
He gets right to the point.
Ferrone, who joined the board 5 years ago, moved to a neighborhood just west of Dixon a year before he took office. The Chicago native is now chairman of the board’s Administrative Services Committee.
Unlike most of his colleagues, Ferrone, who declined to give his age, decided not to run for re-election this year. He is a consultant for insurance companies, helping them become more profitable. His office is in Chicago, where he has to go two or three times a week.
With that kind of schedule, the Republican believed it was best not to seek another term.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll leave quietly. He has been pushing a policy against nepotism. Some say it would be unenforceable, but Ferrone maintains that it’s important for the County Board to take a stand.
He also has been vocal on the issue of paid holidays. The county has 15 for its employees on even-numbered years, more than most government entities.
Ferrone thinks that’s too many, and so do other members of his committee. And they appear to be making headway. Now, Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, the influential chairman of the Finance Committee, agrees the county needs to cut some holidays.
But Ketchum and others warn such changes should be made during union negotiations.
Ferrone also has insisted on posting job openings. Some departments advertise their vacancies; others don’t.
Ferrone contended everyone should have an opportunity to apply. Advertising produces a greater pool of candidates from which to choose, he said.
The biggest issue in Lee County government is regulation of wind farms. Ferrone said the county should protect the property rights of those who want wind turbines on their farms. He said he would seriously consider having turbines if he had a farm.
“I thought they were beautiful when I first came out here,” he said.
SFlb‘Never, ever’ holding a grudge
Ferrone is not shy about standing his ground during committee meetings. At a recent meeting, a county employee challenged him on the holiday issue, suggesting there was a petition for immediate action on the issue.
Ferrone said such a petition didn’t exist.
The employee persisted.
“I just told you no — N-O,” Ferrone shouted.
In a recent interview, Ferrone said he liked the employee and that he “never, ever” holds a grudge. But he added: “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t have much tolerance. If I know I’m correct, I tell them where I’m at.”
The Administrative Services Committee is made up of business people, and that is probably why it is pushing issues such as reducing paid holidays, Ferrone said.
“I’m looking at it as a capitalist,” he said. “How can I get more for my dollar?”
The County Board isn’t Ferrone’s first experience in government. He was an alderman in Elmhurst, a Chicago suburb, for 8 years in the 1980s. He also was the chairman of the Regional Planning Commission in suburban DuPage County.
While Ferrone is a Republican, he said he doesn’t vote a straight ticket. He said he has voted for plenty of Democrats.
As for the Republican presidential race, Ferrone calls former House Speaker Newt Gingrich “a very strong, intelligent individual,” likes that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a businessman, and appreciates that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is a good family man (“They all are.”).
He said President Barack Obama is a “nice human being,” but added that he didn’t think the president has done anything that’s credible.
‘My hobby is my work’
A few years ago, Ferrone and his wife, Anne, wanted to leave the hustle and bustle of the city. And they saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a house west of Dixon, where they now live.
“My wife liked it, and I said, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do,’” Ferrone said. “It’s quiet here.”
He said he likes Dixon, but was surprised at the number of fast-food restaurants.
Most of the time, he and his wife eat at home. When his children were growing up, they always made sure to have dinner together.
With his six children out of the house, he said, he spends hours at night talking to them on the phone. He doesn’t communicate on Facebook or by texting. He said he never would.
“Those are a waste of a human being’s time,” he said. “If I have something to say to someone, I’ll say it.”
Ferrone readily admits he has no hobbies.
“My hobby is my work,” he said.
Ferrone said people should get involved if they don’t like what’s going on.
“When people complain about something, I say, ‘Get off your duffs and do something,’” Ferrone said.
As for Dixon and Lee County, he said he hopes they can get more industry and stores.
“Maybe there’s nothing left out here for us,” he said. “Maybe we’ll be a sleepy little county, which isn’t bad.”
Age: Declined to provide, saying he doesn’t like to make public information that could leave him vulnerable to identity fraud
Occupation: Consultant for insurance companies
Government experience: Lee County Board member, R-Dixon, since 2006; former alderman in Elmhurst, a Chicago suburb; former chairman of DuPage County Regional Planning Commission
Military: Served in the Army in the 1950s in Germany
Family: Wife, Anne; six children