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It’s a measure of Doug House’s influence that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his retirement as Illinois deputy secretary of transportation at the Dec. 1, 2021, Interstate 74 Bridge ribbon cutting. Whether it was through Mr. House’s work at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT); his 18 years in township government; his 38 years with the City of Moline, including as public works director; or his work as a top Democratic Party and community leader, it often appeared as though Mr. House had a hand in everything. The former Rock Island County Democratic Party chair and former president of the Democratic County Chairs’ Association is quick to poke fun at himself. “I have always felt like I am the local Forrest Gump, the one that you always see in the picture and ask, ‘What is he doing there?’’’ said Mr. House, of Moline. The answer has been quite a lot. As Mr. Pritzker, whom Mr. House worked to get elected, told the QCBJ, “Doug is so incredibly dedicated to protecting the working families of Illinois.” He’s also been a friend to workers and unions, and “a lifeline” for many, the governor said. Mr. House describes himself as “a transportation professional who began at the entry level filling potholes and plowing snow and it culminated as the Illinois deputy secretary of transportation.” There he oversaw 5,200 employees, and the passage of the state’s $44 billion Rebuild Illinois capital bill, and he flew to Washington to lobby both sides of the aisle for passage of the $1.2 trillion federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. What did it mean for you to celebrate the new bridge as No. 2 at IDOT? Thousands of people were involved in the project, every one of them essential from the visionaries, the elected officials, the engineers, and the local skilled trades union employees who built the bridge. The project could not have been completed without any one of them. I am thankful to have been able to participate in the ribbon cutting and to have had some of my family present to witness the opening of the bridge. My grandfather Dell House built 13 rural farm-to-market bridges, his contemporaries called him Bridge Builder, I would like to think he was smiling when this one was completed. Were you surprised the governor announced your retirement there? Yes, I was very surprised. I share a very close friendship with Gov. Pritzker and his family and it was a huge honor for him to thank me for my service to the state. I spent many hours over the years volunteering, knocking on doors for Democratic candidates with the basic message that we could do better if given an opportunity. I felt that it was a personal obligation to help show that we could. Because of my transportation experience the governor gave me that opportunity and for that I will always be grateful. Some friends and colleagues are taking bets about whether your retirement will “stick.” What odds are you giving yourself? I am retired but staying active. While I no longer will be punching a clock I will continue to be involved in local projects and causes that are important to me and our community. While serving in many senior management positions I have always carried a union card. To me that union card has always represented an opportunity and a pathway to a better life. It lifted my family out of poverty and I will always work to help ensure that worker’s rights are protected. My wife Kim and our family, which now includes two grandchildren have been very supportive of me in my career and I am eternally grateful to them for that. They understood the significance of the work and my passion for it, but they gave up a lot and I have missed a lot. This is a new chapter in my life where I can be there for them and I am fully committed to being there. Your political roots run deep. Who inspired you? My grandfather Dell House was a highway commissioner for 38 years and my father Ed House was a retired UAW John Deere employee and UAW CAP (Community Action Program) Council Board Member. They taught me the value of hard work and public service. But (U.S. Reps.) Lane Evans and Phil Hare showed me what was possible for me to accomplish. Lane for his selfless dedicated service to our community that made government work for the individual. I served as his political director. Phil Hare has always had unrivaled political skills and was responsible for many of Lane’s successes. Phil taught me politics and how to work and organize to grind out a tough win on the ground. My heroes are John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, all martyrs killed trying to lift others up and while fighting for what they believed in. The coverage of these tragic deaths played out in front of me on the television and made an indelible mark on who I am today and why I do what I do. You mentored many leaders. Can you share any stories about them? Lane Evans lived by the mantra, “Only by the grace of God did I get an opportunity to serve in Congress and as long as I have that opportunity I will hold the door open for others.” I have tried to carry that effort forward and support potential leaders who I felt could make a difference. Elected officials and candidates are human; they are a reflection of society, not all equally as dedicated and selfless, but I am thankful for having supported and known some of the very best our country and our local Rock Island County has had to offer. … But the most important and the most rewarding contribution that I feel I was able to make was to ensure that women and people of color had opportunities and support to run for public office. Are you officially a political civilian? I believe I am officially an active political senior citizen. I have been replaced in several township, county and state organizations and offices and it has always brought me a great deal of satisfaction to see those individuals that replaced me succeed. No one should ever feel that they are the only one who can do a good job or fear that a replacement will fall short. There is much cause for optimism in the next generation of leaders. If I have something of substance to offer our community or to help workers I will. I am actively collaborating on the Vote Yes For Workers Rights, a nonpartisan constitutional amendment. Did you accomplish everything you hoped to? Any regrets? Serving the governor of Illinois as the deputy secretary of transportation was the capstone of my lifelong transportation career. I was blessed with many successes wherever I worked and in whatever I was working on. As for regrets, there were several balls I pushed as far as I could up the hill. There were various projects across the state and locally, some known and some obscure, but I am confident that others remain committed to their completion and anytime they need an assist I will provide it. I would like for people to understand that I have always been about public service big and small. That’s a lifelong responsibility of each of us that as long as you are able to take a breath you should watch for where you are needed. Maybe that one great thing that you will do is help someone across the street, take a meal to a shut in, mentor a child, or donate to a food pantry. We can all do something to make things better.