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george danos

George Danos in his office at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana.

As a sophomore at Deerfield High in the Chicago suburbs, he earned his first varsity letter, in track and field — for serving as the team statistician.

A math whiz back then, an economics major in college and a finance professional ever since, it adds up that GEORGE DANOS would find his career calling in the office of the Champaign County auditor.

Elected to a half-term in 2018 and a full one two years later, the three-degree UI grad and son of a Greek immigrant is the first CPA to serve as county auditor.

Danos, a former high school math teacher and visiting UI lecturer, took time out to answer a few questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 80th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … to decouple feelings from decisions. What is best in the long run does not always feel good in the present. At the same time, self-mastery has its upside.

I rarely convey any negative emotion, such as anger or worry, to my staff. It does not help them. But a word of encouragement can go a long way.

I can’t live without … my phone. Prior to the release of the vaccine, I hadn’t been able to visit my father, siblings or even my mother in her last weeks.

While it is a commercial commonplace, a phone really does let you “reach out and touch someone.”

My philosophy on meetings is … to keep them focused, with everyone engaged. It is important to have a definite agenda and to keep the discussion relevant for all attendees. Otherwise, why invite them?

I do not want anyone to dodge or to dread meetings, so I keep them short and release participants promptly.

The worst job I ever had was … as a temporary accountant at a large insurer. The atmosphere was like that of “Glengarry Glen Ross” but without Alec Baldwin’s charm.

This insurer held that it had no obligation to pay death benefits without a payment request and proof of death from a beneficiary.

Sagely, our state treasurer — and my predecessor as county auditor — compelled them to open their books to his unclaimed property division, thereby ensuring that distressed survivors get their due.

My business role model is … the founder of Dow Chemical. A graduate of the Case School in Ohio, Herbert Henry Dow was an inventor as well as a businessman.

European cartels tried to drive him from the market with predatory pricing. Rather than wait for a diplomatic solution, he simply bought the underpriced German bromine and passed the savings on to domestic customers.

What an ingenious way to fight European price collusion with rugged American individualism.

My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is … to inform me of any obstacles to their work or any threats to the timely delivery of our promises.

We can work together through anything, but I want bad news immediately.

My single favorite moment of all-time in this job was … when I was able to secure the continued flow of grant funds to the county after the state had threatened to do so by placing us on “stop pay” status.

My dogged appeals to federal and state agencies stopped this harsh mechanism in its tracks. There was never a question of any funding loss, only delay. But I squeezed that delay from 90 days to one.

I’m frugal in that … I still wear yesterday’s styles if the clothes are not too worn and still fit.

The last luxury in which I indulged was … in buying the new Kindle Paperwhite. My previous Kindle was perfectly serviceable, but it did not have a touch screen, back lighting or a high-pixel density.

I especially like reading in the dark and not having to turn off the lamp before turning in.

The most beneficial college class I took was … Intermediate Macroeconomics at MIT with Olivier Blanchard. He admonished us to attend class rather than rely on self-study.

He began his lectures with equations on the board. One thing I’ll never forget was his treatment of the federal budget deficit as the change in the accumulated debt over a year. If you look to published budget figures, you will be misled by understatement upon understatement.

Blanchard is better known as the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund until 2015.

My exercise routine is … not so routine. If it is sunny out and I have a natural time to interrupt my work, I like to walk up and down the hillocks around the Brookens Administrative Center.

My skin thanks me and my calves complain.

On a 1-to-10 scale, the impact of the pandemic has been … an 8. From my perspective, the impact is mostly indirect. The lockdowns and the interruption of commerce harmed many social and productive work lives. The federal attempts to mitigate this massive dislocation will surely cause unintended problems of their own.

Professor Blanchard says that the $1.9 trillion stimulus is larger than the “output gap” and is thus inflationary. I concur.

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