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The People's Voice: A poignant breath of fresh air in Dixon

Published: Saturday, March 15, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Dixon City Commissioner of Public Health and Safety Dennis Considine wears his Irish heritage and pride for his city on his sleeve.

Mumford & Sons. The Reagan Run. Dennis Considine.

I’ll take breaths of fresh air in Dixon for $500, Alex.

Well, maybe not the Reagan Run – at least for inexperienced runners who dare to take on the uber-challenging course.

But I digress.

Sometimes, in order to truly savor a lungful of air, one must have the air sucked out of their proverbial sail.

After carving out an astounding career in the beauty business, Dennis Considine took on politics. He won the seat of commissioner of public health and safety in 2011 – just in time to stand in the thick of one of the biggest scandals that might ever rock a city the size of Dixon.

So much of the process had to have been a blur – from the unearthing of the former Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s embezzling to a former mogul in the hair-styling industry suddenly finding himself at an auction, watching folks bid thousands of dollars on hair extensions for horses’ tails.

For months, Considine says, Dixon City Clerk Kathe Swanson and Mayor Jim Burke tried to keep fellow officials at bay until they could confirm the unthinkable.

When they did? Let’s just say it was as heartwrenching for those in government as it was for those they serve.

“It was absolutely heartbreaking,” Considine reflected during an interview Wednesday afternoon at Sauk Valley Media. “I knew the person involved. I knew her family and had respect for them. Most of the people who worked with her had such trust in her. Trust became an evil lover.”

The 2-year anniversary of Crundwell’s arrest is upcoming. I figured what better time to catch up with Considine, especially considering the way he wears his Irish heritage like a badge, a fine tie-in with St. Patrick’s Day.

Hear our entire conversation in The People’s Voice podcast at www.saukvalley.com. It’s not all politics. We talk about bulldogs and the promise of spring and the fact that he takes as much umbrage with people stereotyping Irish folks as drunks as he does with the SVM editorial board calling him and fellow upstart politicians “well-meaning amateurs.”

Today, Considine’s outlook couldn’t be sunnier. After all, the snow is melting – albeit slowly – and Dixon appears on an upswing. Myriad projects are picking up speed, and the bulk of the pilfered money has returned home like a prodigal son.

Figuring out how to best put it to use must be as exhilarating as it is daunting, considering the veritable scroll of options.

But what makes it a lot easier is knowing there isn’t a dishonest soul in the room.

“There’s honesty and forthrightness in the people I work with every day,” Considine said.

If he’s being honest, Considine would tell you he never could have imagined himself in politics. His father, Hubert Dennis Considine, was one of the youngest men elected to the state House of Representatives. One of 12 siblings, Considine admits his father’s tireless commitment to his community was sometimes hard to appreciate.

“I always blamed that for some of the echo chambers I had in my life,” Considine said.

But he’s come into his own after his foray into politics felt bumpy at times, considering the leak-proof feel of the successful businesses – Kline’s Department Store and Marshall Beauty Supply – for whom Considine worked on the front line.

“Immediately, I felt ... ‘Something’s not right here. This isn’t how we do business,’” Considine said. “Then I was told that government isn’t like business.”

Not one to pull punches, the liberal Considine shook things up in hyper-conservative Dixon, a scaled-down example of the sort of aisle-spanning cooperation I believe is necessary to remedy our nation’s woes. Yes, Considine has remarkable business savvy, but I firmly believe that applying the best practices from both camps – Democratic and Republican – is a linchpin for any well-rounded government body.

Today, Considine’s skin might be a little thicker. That’s why he can roll with the punches of critical editorials and the underlying feeling that something is still being covered up.

“There’s not another thing out there in the city of Dixon’s closet that hasn’t been cleaned out,” Considine said.

I thank Considine for sitting down and chatting about growing pains and betrayal. But my biggest takeaway was his vibrant personality and progressive attitude.

“I would just like to see the city of Dixon from 30,000 feet,” he said during our interview. “He’s [Burke] a very aggressive-minded mayor, and he sees the city of Dixon from 60,000 feet. He has great vision for what we’re doing, and he’s done many great things for this city.

“Our citizens are the reason we are a great city. Every single person in our community contributes to the betterment. We have nothing but blue skies and great hopes, going forward.”

Ever-diplomatic, he asked that I point out that the corned beef and cabbage at Shamrock Pub in Dixon is a must-try. That was an amendment to the two restaurants he lauded in the podcast. No, I’m not going to tell you here. Give it a listen. Thank me later.

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