BLUE ISLAND | For Kevin T. Donahue, getting elected to a City Council position was really just a matter of staying within the family’s line of work, even if he’s not working for the same government entity.
Donahue, who is to take an oath Tuesday to become the 3rd Ward alderman in Blue Island, has two political grandparents. His maternal grandfather is longtime Calumet City Treasurer Al Wisowaty, who also served stints as alderman and as a School Board member for Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 during a 40-year career in elective office.
If that isn’t enough inspiration, former Calumet City Alderman Irene Donahue – who ran unsuccessfully against Jerry Genova for mayor of Calumet City in 1993 – is his paternal grandmother.
“I saw how well they were regarded because they were concerned about the community,” Donahue said. “People looked up to them.”
Particularly of his grandfather, Donahue said, “He was a very compassionate person who took care of things in the community. ... I guess some of that rubbed off on me.”
So it was with them in mind that Donahue accepted an offer by mayoral candidate Domingo Vargas to be on his Blue Island Independent Party slate that wound up winning control of all Blue Island posts in the April 9 elections. For his part, Donahue received 224 votes, compared to 117 votes for Cynthia Delgadillo and 19 votes for Ricardo Moreno.
His priority upon taking office will be to keep a campaign promise to find funding to repair at least one of two bridges in Blue Island that are closed to the public.
Donahue was raised in Calumet City and attended St. Victor Catholic School. But his parents moved to Northwest Indiana as he entered his teenage years, and he graduated from Munster High School in 2007.
After attending Vincennes University where he studied homeland security and public safety, he got a job as operations director for Calumet Township in the south suburbs, which is what motivated his move two years ago to Blue Island.
“I’m in Blue Island, probably for good,” Donahue said.
During that time, Donahue saw what he perceived as a “lack of leadership” within the community. He refrained from being critical of longtime Mayor Donald Peloquin, who gave up the post following seven terms to run an unsuccessful bid last year for Congress against Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.
“I’m not going to say he got away from caring. The things he did were great,” Donahue said of Peloquin. “But after 28 years, it became an older community. It has changed, just like Calumet City has changed.”
Yet Donahue said he thinks his life experiences in Calumet City will translate to leadership in Blue Island.
“Blue Island is like a lot of the south suburbs. It is an older community with problems,” he said.
Donahue has tried to maintain ties with his grandparents’ hometown. He and Kyle Kasperek, son of city finance Director John Kasperek, both coach a Babe Ruth League baseball team and Donahue is a member of the Calumet City Cavaliers, while also joining the Blue Island Eagles and volunteering during the St. Donatus festival.
In fact, Donahue said he wishes Blue Island could be a bit more like Calumet City — which he said has been successful in attracting businesses near the River Oaks Shopping Center and snatching a Cadillac dealership away from Hammond.
“In Blue Island, we have trouble attracting businesses,” Donahue said. “Mayor (Michelle Markiewicz) Qualkinbush, under her leadership, they have brought business to Calumet City.”
Both municipalities have had significant changes in the composition of their population in recent years. The 2010 Census Bureau population count showed Calumet City with a 72 percent African-American population, while Blue Island had a 47 percent Latino and 31 percent black population.
Yet Donahue does not think his white, Polish ethnic roots put him out of touch with those residents.
“I don’t think I have a problem at all,” he said. “It’s all about listening to people and their concerns.”