Friday, March 19, 2010
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Personality of the Week

The long (hair) and the short of it: O'Neill dedicated to area youth

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[March 19, 2010]  A Logan County Board member for the past eight years, Pat O'Neill has announced that he will not be running for a new term when his current one is up. "A few months ago I decided not to run again for the county board or any other office," O'Neill said. He said that when his term is up on Nov. 30, 2012, "it will be 10 years in politics that I never thought I'd be in anyway."

HardwareThe 54-year-old O'Neill doesn't plan to retire from community service, though. Rather, his primary reason for not running again is that he would now like to pour more of his energies into continuing to help build up our young people. He said that when he was considering his future, he decided, "I feel I had better do what is most important to me -- help young people feel better about themselves."

Pat had a track record of being involved in the community before joining the Logan County Board. He also has a reputation for working hard at something once he has decided to become involved.


O'Neill was appointed to the county's animal control committee, and like everything else went at it with the tenaciousness of a bulldog (pun intended). While on the county's animal control committee, O'Neill worked very hard for improvements to the animal control facility in an effort to bring down the high rate of euthanasia at the pound.

Later, he became an original member of the startup Humane Society, forcing his withdrawal from the animal control committee due to conflict of interest.

O'Neill was named to Lincoln Mayor Beth Davis-Kavelman's youth and disabilities committees when she took office in 2001. He began having youth-oriented events in order to find out what the youngsters were thinking. He took the opportunity to talk to area youth and coupled it with a fun event.

In one case he held a dance at the Lincoln Park District Rec Center. On several other occasions he had a combination youth forum, bowling donated by Logan Lanes and pizza parties, pairing youth with state legislators who also came to hear what was on the minds of our youth. These events gave O'Neill and our leaders the chance to find out firsthand what our youngsters were thinking and what their issues within the community were.


He will do almost anything if he thinks it will help a youngster. Pat admits he looked like a "hippie" for 18 months in 2006-2007. A young girl from Peoria had come to one of his youth forums and explained she was battling cancer. When Pat asked if there was anything he could do, she showed him she was wearing a wig.

The young lady told Pat about the Locks for Love program, where people donate their hair to make wigs for people battling the dreaded disease. Like everything O'Neill gets involved with, he decided to get involved totally in supporting the program. Pat went 18 months without a haircut before getting his hair clipped.

Pat has continued to be involved with local youth as a board member and has used his office to help local youngsters receive the recognition they deserve for scholastic and community efforts.

In October 2007 O'Neill formally began recognizing Logan County high school students who demonstrate overall good character and achievements. The students chosen possess a variety of gifts and are respected by peers in sports, academics, school-sponsored activities, public service and spiritual life. The honorees brought before the Logan County Board have been presented certificates of recognition.

O'Neill began working on his next turn in life a few months ago. It will involve a number of steps.

First, he plans to continue the student presentations, but they will be moved to the local high schools of the recipients and be done during assembly times when the students' friends and peers, as well as teachers and family, can be present.

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At the core of O'Neill's present and future purpose and plan, he says that young people in our community need to feel better about themselves. He wants to help students turn away from negative thinking to positive attitudes that leave them feeling good about themselves.

To move toward and build that positive environment, he plans to:

  • Support students to do things for themselves and their community, encouraging them through recognition incentives.

  • Show students people who have graduated here and then gone on to help others in the community, or who have gone to other communities and made a significant impact.

He would like the movement of creating a positive environment to spread throughout the community. To further this effort, he would like to have local TV time to introduce special people who make a difference. In that spot he would recognize Students of the Month, Teachers of the Month and Citizens of the Month.

Additionally, he currently has a Web site under construction, and all of the recognitions and awards would be posted there.

To accomplish all this, he has made application for a not-for-profit foundation status and is seeking grants.

Grant funding would also be used to establish a scholarship for a graduating senior in need who may not qualify for other funds.

O'Neill summed up his beliefs and motivation by recognizing that one of the measures of a community is the quality of life. He said that the quality of life is about the people in our community. He thinks the place to start is with our young people. He wants to see them feel good about self and community, and let it spread.

Like everything O'Neill has become involved with, we imagine he will give it his full measure. And that is why we have named Pat O'Neill our Personality of the Week.


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