It’s a bright, almost unbearably hot summer afternoon, and I’m waiting in the lobby of the Lake County Commissioners’ offices on the fourth floor of 105 Main St. in Painesville. I’m a few minutes early and expecting a wait. If anything, my years of experience tell me that powerful people will always make you wait — even when they’re not busy.
But that’s not the case with Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy. It’s only a matter of seconds before his assistant comes and takes me to his office. He steps out from behind a desk with filled with stacks of folders and papers. Other folders and documents are in stacks behind his desk.
It’s not what I expected.
This isn’t the clean desk of a powerful executive who delegates responsibility to others, but a working desk of someone who plows into the most intimate details of every issue that comes before him. The office walls are just as cluttered, lined with awards, recognitions and citations from a career in public service that spans five decades.
Troy’s smile is warm and broad, as he shakes my hand, and notices me glancing at his walls.
His walls are covered in various awards from throughout his political career. “I don’t know if I could honestly tell you what half of them are for,” he jokes.
I suspect he just might be able to do so.
Throughout his career in public service, Troy’s encyclopedic knowledge and grasp of intricate details on important issues have made him the quintessential community leader. At every level of government where he’s served, he’s risen to a leadership position.
Troy’s inquisitive nature and lifelong dedication to education and learning have served him well in the political arena. A graduate of the University of Dayton, he still teaches political science part-time at Lakeland Community College.
“You can never stop learning,” says Troy. “As a teacher, I learn something new from my students every day.”
Yet his background is not strictly from politics and academia. He served as a U.S. Army medic after going to college. And he’s still a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local #33.
Troy caught the political bug at a very early age. Growing up in Eastlake, and going to St. Mary Magdalene in Willowick, Troy became interested in politics during the Kennedy administration.
“I remember the nuns were all excited because he was the first Catholic president,” says Troy, who grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family with six children. “So he was something of an inspiration.”
At that tender young age, Troy wasn’t dreaming about just politics, but the baseball diamond, too.
“I wanted to be a major league second baseman,” says Troy, who spent his summers playing in Eastlake Little League at the end of Erie Road in the city. “I love baseball and played it right up until I was 55, playing softball in a men’s league.”
Attending St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Troy got involved in speech and debate clubs to overcome a natural shyness.
“I didn’t like getting up and giving speeches, so it was something that I had to work to overcome,” he says. “I also tried to join the National Honor Society in high school, but I had no leadership experience. I guess I’ve taken care of that.”
Today, Troy’s leadership resume is as crowded as his office walls. While he has a tremendous amount of government and public service experience, Troy bristles at the term “career politician.”
“It always upsets me when people talk about career politicians, that we need new blood,” he says. “Would you say the same thing if you needed heart surgery?
“The only way you can become a career politician is if people keep re-electing you. And I have always assumed that they are not going to do that if you’re doing a lousy job.”
Doing a good job of governing, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, means understanding not only the issues, but the legislative process itself.
“So much of it involves compromise, and so little of it exists today,” says Troy, who is a Democrat. “You need to do a little horse trading, a little give and take. You have to realize that you are not going to get everything you want, so you work both sides. You need to read the people you work with, and understand where they are coming from.”
Indeed, one of Troy’s most respected colleagues in office was Raymond E. Sines, a Perry Village Republican who served with Troy as a Lake County commissioner.
“We worked extremely well together, even though we are from different political religions, so to speak,” says Troy, who describes himself as a centrist. “We worked well together because we understood each other.”
Even Troy admits that it’s something that’s getting harder and harder to find, especially in today’s combative political climate. Troy recalls going on a radio show during the last election, when he was asked if he thought he was a good county commissioner.
“I said I thought I was good because I was able to compromise, to reach out to differing points of view to work together and get something moving forward on behalf of the citizenry,” Troy recalls. “But the radio host, who was conservative, simply said, ‘A lot of people in this country feel that we have compromised too much already.’ ”
Those kinds of sound bites do little after an election, says Troy. Reaching across the aisle and finding compromise, not sound bites, are the keys to governing.
Troy is especially proud of two accomplishments while in government: finding money to help build Lakeland Community College buildings while he was in the state legislature, and reaching a budget compromise working with commissioners Sines and Robert Aufuldish in 2012.
“It’s perhaps the proudest accomplishment of my career as county commissioner,” he says. “The county auditor had never seen balances so low. But working together, we came up with a plan that basically put everything on an even keel. It ensured we had long-range fiscal stability.”
When it comes down to it, says Troy, the true definition of politics is the management of conflict.
“And by that I don’t mean two people duking it out,” he says. “You have to manage the conflict of people’s needs. In other words, if you have 10 needs, but only have enough money to address five of them, you have to be able to manage that conflict.
“I’m a firm believer that government does more good for people than harm,” Troy adds. “You need government to ensure that the components of civilization exist. And that happens through free and open elections.”
As well as compromise once you get into office.