Place of birth: Sullivan
Date of birth: Jan. 16, 1950.
Title: CEO of Developmental Services Inc.
Education: Bachelor’s in social science/secondary education from Indiana State University, master’s in rehabilitation administration and services from Southern Illinois University.
Family: Wife, Peggy; three children; two grandchildren.
Hobbies: This time of year I read a lot of military and Hungarian history. I like to go hiking in the mountains, especially Arizona and Vermont, and I fish a little bit. I also like NASCAR and am a die-hard Cubs fan.
What was your first job?
I mowed lawns and helped my friends on paper routes when I was 12 or 13. I worked as a gas station attendant in Sullivan at age 15.
What primary lessons did you learn from those jobs?
Providing customer satisfaction and good quality. I mowed a lot for old ladies, some of whom would tip you, but you really had to earn it. There would be grass around the steps and in flower beds, and if you pulled that out by hand, do a little extra, you got the satisfaction of having done a good job, and sometimes the client would notice and give you a tip. At the gas station, this was back when we offered full service, I had to check under the hood, clean the windshield and check the tire pressure. The station was along U.S. 40, which back then was the main route between Chicago and Florida.
How did your leadership skills develop?
From scouting to Little League, I’ve wanted to be in charge — but without being bossy. And whenever I had a job, I learned to do it well and was usually rewarded with a promotion and more responsibility. I was recruited for the leadership job at DSI, and the organization had not had an executive director stay more than three years. That’s how long they asked me to stay. I’ve been here 27 years now.
What are some of the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned?
To be a good leader, you really have to find, hire and train other leaders. You basically find good people, teach them, trust them and turn them loose. You want to hold them accountable, but you can’t micromanage them and look over everybody’s shoulder.
What leadership lesson do you wish you had learned earlier?
Early in my career, I was probably too trusting and patient with people who weren’t getting the job done. I thought that if I could hang on, things would get better, but they usually don’t. People today probably say I’m a demanding boss and not very patient. When I was younger, I was more likely to give people second and third chances. Now that I’m older I can see that only leads to outcomes not being achieved in a desirable or timely manner.
What do you like best about your job?
When I can leave this office and hang out with the people who we serve, to see individual successes. When a client gets a job, moves into an apartment or is able to do things in the community they’ve never done before, that’s the outcome we want to see. That’s the reason why we come to work.
What do you like least?
Dealing with bureaucratic institutions, funding cuts and over-regulation.
What advice do you have for people who are just now graduating from high school or college and are trying to find a career?
Pursue your dream if you can — but if you can’t, don’t be afraid to try something else. Half the time people offered me a job, I didn’t know what I was doing but figured that I could learn. If it didn’t work out, I’d go do something else. Many people in our organization had no intention of being in this line of work. And whatever you end up doing, do your best.
What’s your favorite place to visit and why?
I’ve been to 49 of 50 states and plan to hit the 50th, Hawaii, next year. And there are other places I’d like to go, including back to Hungary, where my family is from. I’m also a big fan of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona. I get a four-wheel drive vehicle and drive along the dirt and mountain roads. That area’s got great weather, history and geography. I plan to head out there again this spring.