SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Administrator Gary Hanson does his best thinking when he’s with his dog.
Hanson, 64, who has been with the county for 36 years and has held the county administrator role for the past seven, said he has to walk his mixed-breed dog Charlie a lot because he and his wife Joan don’t have a fenced-in yard.
“I solve a lot of county problems when I’m walking my dog,” he said. “That’s my free time.”
Hanson said throughout his time with DeKalb County he’s been a part of either the updating or the building of each one of the county’s nine buildings.
Christine Johnson, DeKalb County treasurer for 24 years, said Hanson has certainly been at the forefront of numerous building projects.
“He’s somebody who has a vision for the future,” she said. “When he makes decisions, he looks forward for what the county’s needs are going to be and he plans accordingly.”
Hanson said he has fun doing the capital projects.
“You work on them so long, [and] you can actually see the finished project,” Hanson said. “Those are great. What I really like when I look back over the years, is the services we’ve been able to maintain. We have gone through financial difficulties, but we’ve always maintained our level of service. I think that’s what makes me the happiest.”
Hanson grew up in West Union, Iowa, with his two older brothers Harlan and Dennis, and his older sister Marilyn.
“I was the baby of the family,” he said.
Hanson later enrolled at Iowa State University, where he earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Accounting and Economics.
He said he started his career working for the state of Iowa, where he would audit county governments.
For the past 36 years, Hanson has helped DeKalb County handle its finances, first as finance director then as administrator. He said he and his staff are “extremely efficient.”
“I always have enjoyed math and finances,” Hanson said. “How do you put the money together to make things happen? … That’s a lot of fun for me.”
Hanson said he’s happy DeKalb County is financially sound and that it came through the financial crisis that hit the U.S. in 2007. To do that, the county had to make some hard decisions.
“We had to do a lot of budget cutting,” he said. “Unfortunately, some downsizing happened, but we tried to structure things so we could maintain the services. That was really important. When you start considering you have a nursing home and a public health department, some of those services are just vital.”
Hanson pointed out the county’s foresight in building up a “rainy day fund.”
“In the good times, you prepare for the bad times,” he said.
Johnson said Hanson wants to do what’s best for DeKalb County residents and that he’s very fiscally savvy.
“It’s always a pleasure to work with somebody like that, who’s mindful of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Johnson said.
Tasha Sims, administrative assistant for DeKalb County since 2013, said she really enjoys coming to work every day. She said Hanson always challenges her, which she said is interesting.
“It makes you stop and think about things you’d normally scoot past,” Sims said.
She said Hanson challenges the department heads to help the county.
Johnson said Hanson has a standard phrase whenever she comes to him, which is “Pause and reflect.”
“He’s not just making an off the cuff decision,” Johnson said. The thoughtfulness behind his decisions is one of the things Johnson admires most about Hanson.
There is a framed picture with a quote from former US President John F. Kennedy that hangs on the wall Hanson faces in his office.
Hanson said the quote in the picture that shows Kennedy on his sailboat “Victura,” is Hanson’s favorite quote, “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”
“I think that’s so important,” Hanson said. “That’s a message I try to convey to the departments here. Try to make a difference. We all have a little time to do these jobs. Let’s not coast. Let’s make a difference.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle