Today, The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli chats with W. Todd Salen, 55, of Champaign, a real estate broker at Ramshaw Real Estate. He's also a producer for the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company's 'Les Miserables,' executive secretary of Champaign Rotary, a board member of the Champaign County Humane Society, president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors, chapter adviser for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Fraternity Affairs.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
I typically wake up at 4 a.m. and spend the first hour reading The News-Gazette (thanks to my carrier for delivering so early!) and answering emails.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?
No single thing, but I mentor several college students. When I have the opportunity to meet with them for four years and then after they graduate see them experiencing a successful life, for me at least that is the greatest achievement.
What do you regard as your most treasured possession?
My fraternity badge.
Do you have a "guilty pleasure," and what is it?
Dairy Queen Large Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Cone. My mom would give me one when I was "good" as a kid.
What book are you reading now?
"Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel.
What is your favorite book ever?
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
Lyon, France. I just worked with a student from France in the past few weeks, and he told me all about the history, proximity to the Alps, etc. I'm ready to go!
Tell me about your favorite pet.
My golden retriever, Kelsey. Kelsey is a rescue dog I got three years ago. A purebred, she was significantly underweight and had several health issues. She is now a healthy companion, and "the friendliest dog in Champaign County."
What's your favorite sports team?
Illinois baseball team.
What would you order for your last meal?
Lasagna, brisket, fresh sweet corn and Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.
If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?
I'd be happy to come back as something similar to what I'm doing now. I'm pretty happy with my life.
Who are your favorite musicians, and why?
Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, Chris Tomlin and Matthew West. They are all wonderful singers but also incredible lyricists.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
Marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?
Jerry Nelson, Bob Dudley and Shawn Collingsworth. I would serve fresh tamales, for sure, and we would discuss leadership development in my fraternity.
Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?
Jesus because he gave his life for our salvation.
What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?
I hate when people answer a question before it is asked, or interrupt your answer before you have it completed. I am sometimes guilty of doing the same to others — and not being patient to listen to a complete answer.
What's your best piece of advice?
"Dream out loud." Your dreams have a much better chance of being accomplished if you share them with people around you who can help them come true.
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
I rode a three-wheel bike with an ice-cream cooler in the front. Made $4.50 an hour plus tips.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
When I made the decision to leave Pepsi and become an independent contractor/Realtor. That was the first time I would not receive a weekly paycheck. I wanted a job that would give me flexibility in my schedule so I could concentrate on the things "outside of work" like theater.
Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?
I regret I haven't told the people I love the most that I do indeed love them. We don't know what life will look like tomorrow so we need to make full use of today and make sure the people we love know we love them.
"To love another person is to see the face of God." — Jean Valjean
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I take the dog for a long walk while listening to my favorite music on my iPod.