Ingemunson, the top Prosecutor in Kendall County for 24 years brought both gravitas and humility to the post of County Chairman - a post he held for 34 years. While the article in the Tribune mentions that one of his greatest accomplishments was his ability to bridge some of the "policy" divides between Moderates and Conservatives, I feel that Dallas' legacy will be that he welcomed young people to get involved and get active within the party apparatus and he embraced technology. He has a real record of striving to engage younger folks and even embracing technology. Am I a little biased towards him because I worked for Cross and Dallas was around? Sure I am. But there's nothing wrong with telling the entire story about Dallas Ingemunson.
Ingemunson, who holds a title of "honorary chairman" with the Illinois Republican Party, has for several years acted as a bridge-builder in an attempt to bring harmony to a political organization beset by infighting between its longtime controlling moderate wing and a vocal conservative wing that has felt left out of the party process.
Back in 2002 and 2003, House Minority Leader Tom Cross was doing (what I would consider) some very creative and interesting things on the web. Who was the biggest cheerleader of all that stuff? Dallas. I doubt he even has email, let alone knows how to find blogs and watch little videos, but he supported it because it engaged people. Dallas always spoke of being very active with the press and eliminating the filters of Mainstream Media. He was ahead of his time in recognizing that elected officials and political parties don't necessarily need the press, but rather they have the ability, nay, the requirement to speak unfiltered, directly to the constituents. He saw the web and email as the mechanism to accomplish that.
Dallas also encouraged young people to get involved with the party and get educated about the past of the party. I was the driver for Tom Cross for a few years. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I spent time with Tom and many others including Dallas. Tom recalled to me that when he was getting started in the Kendall County State's Attorney Office, he would often drive Dallas to events and functions. He used it as a way to learn and so did I. Just being in the car or at the dinner table with folks like Dallas was an education in the history of Illinois politics. Do you know how Denny Hastert was elected to the House the first time? Dallas has a great story and it involves Pate Phillips. Want to know about Governor Jim Edgar and his campaigns? Dallas has those stories, too. He's a wealth of knowledge and he isn't afraid to share it.
When it comes to engaging young folks, Dallas was second to none. Of course we have to mention House Minority Leader Tom Cross, but there's more. Think about folks like Aurora Alderman-at-Large Richard Irvin, his son Boyd, State Representative Tim Schmitz, and many others. They all were supported and backed by Dallas. He isn't afraid to embrace a youthful approach to party building and that's something that's missing from today's ILGOP Leaders (outside of Tom Cross' efforts to "Build the Farm Team"). He also thought that there was a lot of room inside the "big tent" of the Republican Party and we should be shepherding everyone in, not pushing folks out.
Most importantly, Dallas Ingemunson is a genuine and kind man. He welcomes an army of folks into his house every year at the NITT (where he cooks a pretty mean Dallas-Burger and my personal favorite Turkey and Cheeses) and will often open up his arms for a big "head to head" discussion. He's someone who I am proud to have gotten to know the past 7 years and someone who's leadership we all will miss.
I know he's stepping back from his duties as County Chair, but please, Dallas....don't walk away too far. The Party still needs you!