Getting Personal: Kris Koester

Getting Personal: Kris Koester

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 39-year-old Kris Koester, administration services manager for the Champaign Public Works Department, chats with staff writer Paul Wood. He comes from a social-work background and is a friend to canines.

Do you live in Champaign? Where did you grow up?

I have lived in downtown Champaign for the past six years. I grew up in Bondville, before we moved to Mahomet, when I was in high school. I completed my undergrad at the University of Illinois and then moved to Miami for four years, before coming back to work on my graduate education.

You spent 10 years working for nonprofit foster-care and adoption firms before completing your master's in social work in 2012 and then began working for the city. How did you make the transition?

In the nonprofit sector, a lot of what I did was behind the scenes, managing projects, paying bills, writing policy, working with clients — effecting change organizationwide. I knew when I returned to complete my master's in social work that I wanted to focus on macro-level social work to continue the same. The experience in the field combined with the education has helped make the transition into municipal government smooth.

Does the master's degree help in your current position?

Yes. It helps when talking with citizens or staff who may be upset about something. Another place it helps is when talking about a very complex engineering project. I listen and ask the questions laymen would ask and then provide that information to the public and repeat it back to them.

As a spokesman for the city, you often answer questions about how things are set up in public works. What's the question you get most often?

That would probably be someone asking where public works is and why it isn't downtown.

Do you also get a lot of telephone calls for city problems?

Yes, members of my division handle all incoming calls, emails and other messages about issues in the field. Those are then turned into work orders and dispatched out to our operations staff for followup.

You're the point man for Tom's Mailbag. What's your favorite question? Do you have an opinion on the ongoing Golden Corral discussion?

Sometimes, I feel like Tom should just move into the office next door to me. Kidding! I'm only interested in Golden Corral so that one of my team members stops asking me if I know when it's going to open. I don't. All fun aside, I'm always happy to help answer questions from anyone, whether it gets directed to Tom first or directly to our office.

Tell us about your family.

My immediate family consists of my parents, John and Cheryl, who have been married for 42 years. My sister Dawn married Roberto Russi in 2006. I am also the proud uncle of Thad, 6, and Mila, 4. They all live in Cape Coral, Fla. I also have a pretty large extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great-aunts, grandparents. There are definitely some close friends whom I also I consider as family.

And you have an 8-year-old dog, Fallon. What breed and where did the name come from?

She's a Treeing Tennessee Brindle mix. She was named Fallon when I got her, because her previous owner changed it from Cuddles.

Do you do any sports of any physical activity? Does it release stress?

Lots of walking and jogging with Fallon. Working out on breaks or after work. Definitely a stress reliever.

What's something almost nobody knows about you?

I'm named after Kris Kristofferson.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

I visited Greece in 2000 for a summer. I want to go back.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

He wasn't mine, but my best friend had a miniature pinscher named Bayley. I lived with them for a few years and visited lots of times. He lived to be 19. I have never met an animal with more personality, from the time he was a puppy until his final days.

What's your favorite sports team?

Go Illini! Go Cubs!

What would you order for your last meal?

Mushroom pizza.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

Way too many to choose from. I love Florence & the Machine, Adele, Calum Scott, Bastille and lots more. If I had to pick one, I would go with local musician Kayla Brown. She is so amazingly talented, and her voice has always given me chills. I once listened to her sing a song and had to hold a friend's hand because I couldn't stop sobbing.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Two: meeting my niece and nephew for the first time.

What's your best piece of advice?

Believe in yourself and be yourself. It's the best chance you have of living life to the fullest.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

My dad worked at Pepsi Cola for 38 years before he retired. I turned 16 and he came home one day and told me I was starting work the next day. I worked there for almost seven years, in the warehouse and in stores. I believe I started at $9 an hour.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

Deciding I would not do just anything to make money. I decided to find something I liked doing and learn as much as I could about it and do my best at it. Because of that, I look forward to coming into work every single day.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

My biggest regret was for a selfish reason. I did not see my grandmother before she passed away. She was suffering from memory issues, and I didn't want to see her like that. I skipped a family vacation that involved seeing her. My family saw her and she passed away while they were driving home.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Meditate, listen to music, go for a walk.

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