My dad, Dennis Baron, celebrated his 70th birthday this past weekend, and given this significant milestone, I’d like to celebrate another. Elected to Kankakee’s City Council before I was born, my dad served Kankakee for over 30 years, from 1987 to 2019. For every childhood memory of him coaching my soccer team or introducing me to new authors, I have another of his public service to and love of Kankakee.

His sense of duty — of shared responsibility — was almost an unspoken assumption in our house growing up. It was rarely spelled out explicitly, and yet it was demonstrated through action nearly every day. One of my earliest memories is visiting constituents’ houses with my dad after a big storm flooded their basements, and my most common memories include discussions of budgetary policy, public works, or even waste management.

These aren’t the headline-grabbing topics you’ll see on Fox News or MSNBC. Instead, they’re the essential things that keep our communities running, and for over 30 years, 750 council meetings, and countless visits to constituents, my dad has committed his time, energy, mind, and spirit to everything essential to Kankakee.

At moments in my own political career, I’ve found working in this era of division and discord to be very difficult, and I unfailingly find myself coming back to the values my dad has taught me and my brother: respect of others, respect of self, the sincere consideration of multiple perspectives, resolute optimism, and perhaps above all, love of community.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I’m so proud to be named after you and immeasurably lucky to be your daughter. Thank you for everything you’ve done and will continue to do for me, our family, our hometown, and everyone who has called Kankakee home.

Denise Baron

Originally from Kankakee, currently in London, UK