Durbin Pays Tribute to Doug Aurand, Former Longtime Winnebago County Treasurer, on Senate Floor
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today paid tribute to Harlem Township supervisor and former Winnebago County Board Member and Treasurer, Doug Aurand, who is retiring from public office after four decades of service to the people of Winnebago County, Illinois.
“Doug Aurand was born in Dixon, Illinois, hometown of Ronald Reagan, and he was every bit as proud a Democrat as President Reagan was a Republican. But he never allowed his political affiliation to influence the way he treated his constituents,” said Durbin. “When you walked into the county treasurer’s office, you weren’t a Republican or Democrat -- you were a taxpayer who deserved straight answers, good service and respect. That’s how Doug Aurand saw it, and that’s why voters re-elected him treasurer so many times.”
Text of his remarks as prepared are below:
Tribute to Doug Aurand, a True Public Servant
Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to thank a friend who will be leaving public office soon after four decades of service to the people of Winnebago County, Illinois.
Doug Aurand won his first political race in 1970 when he was elected Winnebago County treasurer. Truth be told, Doug wasn’t supposed to win that race. The voters of Winnebago County hadn’t elected a Democrat to a countywide position in 138 years.
Apparently, however, no one told Doug that he was just a sacrificial lamb. He ran as a write-in candidate and campaigned in that first election as he would in every race he ever ran: full out, knocking on every door and talking to every voter he could find.
When the votes were counted on Election Night, Doug Aurand had made history, becoming the first Democratic treasurer ever in Winnebago County, Illinois.
Over the next 30 years, he would be re-elected county treasurer seven times.
Doug Aurand was born in Dixon, Illinois, hometown of Ronald Reagan, and he was every bit as proud a Democrat as President Reagan was a Republican. But he never allowed his political affiliation to influence the way he treated his constituents.
When you walked into the county treasurer’s office, you weren’t a Republican or Democrat -- you were a taxpayer who deserved straight answers, good service and respect. That’s how Doug Aurand saw it, and that’s why voters re-elected him treasurer so many times.
Two stories will tell you something about what kind of treasurer he was: One of the first actions Doug took as county treasurer was to put banks on notice that they would have to bid for Winnebago County’s bank business. No more awarding the county’s banking business on the basis of political connections; whichever bank offered the highest interest rates would get the job.
In nearly 30 years, competitive investing brought tens of millions of dollars in higher interest payments to the county – a big savings for taxpayers.
Doug also whittled a staff of more than 30 people down to just nine, without skipping a beat in service.
Another example of the sort of treasurer Doug Aurand was:
In the late 1970’s an elderly man came into the county treasurer’s office to pay his tax bill and pulled out a bag of coins. He was literally counting his coins to pay his tax bill.
Doug went up to say hello and he noticed that the coins were all silver – mercury dimes and silver dollars -- valuable collector’s items.
Doug told the man that his coins were worth more than their face value. He didn’t stop there. He also arranged for a professional appraisal of the coins’ worth.
In the end, not only was the elderly man able to pay his tax bill – he also took home a small nest egg.
That’s the kind of conscientious public servant Doug Aurand is.
In 1999, Doug announced that he was stepping down after 28 ½ years as county treasurer. He was in a life-and-death struggle with smoking-related cancer and his prognosis wasn’t good.
Once again, however, Doug defied the odds. He beat cancer and quickly resumed his political career, winning election as Harlem Township supervisor and a Winnebago County board member.
After 10 years, he lost his re-election bid to the county board last November. And he will step down from the Harlem Township board next month, shortly after his 70th birthday, leaving behind a distinguished record of 40 years and eight months of public service.
Doug Aurand grew up on a farm in rural Winnebago County. He was one of six children, including three foster children.
His family raised miniature horses. Doug’s dad also worked in a factory.
Doug served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, came home and started working as a mail carrier.
That’s when he got the political bug.
Federal law prohibits public employees from running for office, so Doug gave up the security of a Postal Service job for the insecurity of politics.
He is a passionate supporter of working people and the American labor movement and considers himself a fiscal conservative when it comes to saving taxpayers’ money.
Ask Doug’s friends who he reminds them of and the same name comes up over and over again: Hubert Horatio Humphrey.
Like Hubert Humphrey, Doug Aurand is a Happy Warrior. He loves retail politics – shaking hands, talking to voters, debating the issues.
A high point of his year is the Winnebago County Fair; he will spend hours and hours talking to fairgoers.
Doug gives back to his community in ways other than politics, too.
Only about 2 percent of boys who enter Boy Scouts ever make it to Eagle Scout. Doug Aurand is one of those 2 percent.
He was also an Eagle Scout leader for more than 30 years. He’s been a leader and friend to hundreds of Eagle Scouts. Doug and his wife Julie have attended scores of graduations and weddings of Doug’s former Eagle Scouts.
He also speaks frequently to young people about the health dangers of smoking, using his own experience with throat cancer as cautionary tale.
Cancer cost Doug Aurand a small part of his tongue. That would be a loss for any of us. For Doug, it presented special challenges.
You see, Doug Aurand is a master of malapropisms. Everyone who knows him has a favorite example of his creative way with words.
One common Doug-ism: In speaking about events that are over and done and can’t be changed, he often refers to “water over the bridge,” or “water under the dam.”
Another friend says his favorite is the way Doug pronounces the word “protégé.” “Proto-joy.”
Mr. President, because of Doug’s decades of service as a public office holder, Eagle Scout leader and friend to so many, Doug Aurand does indeed have “proto-joys” all across Winnebago County and beyond.
Doug and his wife Julie plan to retire to Florida, but their influence will continue to be felt in central Illinois for years to come. And Julie’s famous donkey cookies will certainly be missed.
In closing, I want to wish Doug a happy 70th birthday and happy retirement. I also want to thank Julie, the Aurand children, David and Christine, and the grandchildren, Bill and Tom, for sharing their husband, father and grandfather with the people of Illinois. His service has made a real difference.
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