Getting Personal: Dan Kleiss

Getting Personal: Dan Kleiss

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 61-year-old Tuscola Mayor DAN KLEISS, a family man with a weakness for peanut butter pie, chats with staff writer Paul Wood.

You've been the mayor of Tuscola since 1988. What attracted you and why have you stayed?

I was about 29 years of age when I first started on the Tuscola City Council, and I guess since this was my hometown, it seemed that I should look to contribute in some way to make a positive influence to the community. I still feel that way today.

Can you remember what it's like not to be mayor?

I must admit it is getting harder, and when I look back on it, I was about 31 years old when I became mayor, so life was much different for me back then. I should probably just leave it at that.

Any funny city council stories?

I don't know if I would call them funny or not, but working on a few big projects here like the Outlet Mall, Golf Course/residential subdivision and of course securing a good reliable drinking water source were definitely projects that made me get grayer than what I already was. These are projects that took nearly five years to actually see "come up out of the ground." One funny story that I can share regards one city council meeting. We had been having trouble with a local citizen who was getting up there in age and was attending many meetings, and not being very nice in his delivery of his messages to the council. All of a sudden at one particular meeting, he literally crawls toward me and the city attorney and proclaims to me "that he knows me and that he used to change my diapers when I was little."

And?

I must admit that this kind of put me at a loss for words, and I could not wait to call my mother the next day to check on the accuracy of his comment. Let's just say he wasn't very accurate and must have been thinking about another mayor.

With tourist attractions like Flesor's and The Vault, you've seen a lot of growth in Tuscola recently. What does Tuscola have that others don't?

A natural response would be excellent transportation systems, like rail and major highways that allow easy access, but probably just as important is the community itself. We are very friendly and accommodating, we are willing to give something new a try. It may not always be a good idea, but that is OK, as we can regroup and go in a different direction that will work. It seems that not one person is looking for recognition, as they know it takes many working together to make a successful community.

What was it like growing up in Tuscola?

It was great because as a kid, you always had many friends to hang around with to ride bikes, play pickup ball games, play at the park. Life was simple. You had your chores, but as soon as you could get them finished, you headed to the park. As I look back on it now, it seems that you always had someone watching out for you, whether it was your friend's mom and dad or just another person in town who cared about your well-being.

You also worked at the same company, Cabot Corporation, for over 42 years with increasing levels of responsibilities. You're a stick-to-it guy.

I guess so when you look at it that way. I was very fortunate while at Cabot that I had some very unique opportunities for a small-town kid, and I made the most of those opportunities, which enabled me to stick around for so long in many different roles.

And how about your family?

I have been married to my wonderful wife, Amy, for 38 years. She is from Tuscola and has been a licensed barber for 29 years. We have two adult children. Cory is a certified financial planner with Edward Jones and is married to Kristin, who is an administrator in the Mattoon school district. They have two children, Ava and Grayson. My daughter, Jessica, is a licensed clinical social worker in the Tuscola school district and is married to Dale (Bo) Hanner, a supervisor with LyondellBasell. Both of our children have recently moved back to Tuscola.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

Besides "Happy Hour," I would say chocolate and peanut butter pie.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

A dog (Louie) that we had when I was kid growing up on our farm outside of Tuscola. As an adult, I have been too busy to have a pet, and I always knew that if I bought one for the kids, it would end up as my responsibility.

What's your favorite sports team?

Cubs, Bears and, of course, Illini sports.

What would you order for your last meal?

I would start with an Old Fashioned cocktail as I contemplated what to order, then I would have a wedge salad, a filet mignon and grilled Cajun shrimp with a large baked potato. It would need to be accompanied with a nice red wine, and if possible, finish off with peanut butter pie.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

Well, I have had a pretty good life, so I would say to come back as me.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

I know this may sound a little corny, but every day that I get to continue to be around my family and friends, where we are constantly making memories, makes me the happiest. Oh and just to be safe: my wedding day and the birth of my children.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

President Trump, President Obama and Doctor Phil, with Dr. Phil in charge of the conversation.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people?

I really do not like to be around negative people. I like those who look at things as half full and are willing to build on that.

What's your best piece of advice?

Do your job and do it well. This will provide you with many opportunities. And most important is be kind to everyone and show respect to everyone.

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

Probably walking beans when I was about 10 or 11, and I don't really remember how much I made, probably about $1.50 an hour.

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

Deciding to go to Rheinfelden, Germany, in 1987 to help start up a new plant for Cabot Corporation. This was not an easy time for my wife, as she had to stay home with two children and a leaking hot water heater. I was gone for nine weeks, so I know the strain on her was much harder than my assignment. However, in the long haul, I believe this opened many doors for me and my family that might not have happened without those connections.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

Take a deep breath, and if possible, make the decision in the morning after you have had time to sleep on it.

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