To some, her name makes her sound like a superhero, and that’s what Donna Dallas is to many people in Gurnee. As the deputy clerk and administrative assistant to Mayor Kristina Kovarik, Dallas can solve any problem, or at least, knows who can.
“I can never say no anytime someone needs help,” Dallas said. “I think people should perform at their best – this is just how I am.”
Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she counts on Dallas to help the village run smoothly. “I could probably not be mayor without Donna,” Kovarik said. “She’s empathetic, she’s a good listener, and she knows what should be prioritized.”
Dallas said being deputy clerk is the first public job she’s had.
“Before, I always worked for corporate America, where you work under your own little umbrella and don’t really interact with the community,” Dallas said. “When you work in the public sector, it’s one-on-one every day. Quality of life in Gurnee is really important to me now. This job really had my name on it – I’ve been able to help a lot of people and it’s very rewarding.”
Dallas spent last year as the volunteer president of the executive board for the Gurnee Days Corp., which plans Gurnee’s biggest annual celebration and is entirely volunteer-based. She’s been involved with the group for eight years.
When asked how the event went, Dallas grinned.
“It turned out so well, we were in shock,” she said. “It was the most heavily attended [Gurnee Days] and made a lot of money. We reached out to the community this time, and they delivered. I was amazed at how many people were out there.”
Former Gurnee Days honoree, president and volunteer Hanna Blockinger said Dallas has great leadership skills.
“Donna’s a take-charge person,” Blockinger said. “She saw what needed to be done and moved forward. She’s an amazing leader.”
Blockinger said Dallas’ guidance and input to the volunteer group made the event a success.
Dallas of Waukegan was born and raised in North Chicago. A very involved high-schooler from a small family, she was a cheerleader and a member of the Angel Drill Team, the only world champion all-girl rifle twirling team, she said.
“I like things to be decent and in order,” Dallas said.
Kovarik said Dallas’ color-coded folder system lets her know what’s urgent and keeps the office organized.
“She’s a God-send to me,” Kovarik said.
Dallas’ mother, Jessey Patterson, taught her to be meticulous, Dallas said.
“She’s a good volunteer parent and was an adviser for the Angel Drill Team,” Dallas said. “She was into teaching young girls etiquette. Our house looks like Better Homes & Garden and she was a fashion show commentator – people look up to her.”
My mother made sure I was involved in a lot of things. Whatever I wanted to do, she made me go after it. When I was a cheerleader in high school, she got me private tumbling lessons.”
The Angel Drill Team – a huge part of Dallas’ life through and since high school – helped thousands of girls learn discipline. Many alumnae have been very successful, she said, adding State Rep. Rita Mayfield was on the team.
The success of alumnae is “a testament to Chief Nathaniel Hamilton,” she said. “He came from meager beginnings, joined the service, was stationed here at Great Lakes Naval Base and started up Angel Drill Team.”
He was a trainer and role model to the team, she said.
Dallas is still tied to her hometown of North Chicago through her volunteerism as a mentor with Angel Drill Team and through her church, First Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church. She plans youth events and is working on a celebration for the Rev. Eugene Roberson’s 20th anniversary.
An accomplished singer, Dallas also manages a youth singing group called Minister Tranelle Duffie and Youth Praising God. She organizes performances for the group.
She enjoys one-on-one time with the community and volunteered to teach adults computer skills at Waukegan Public Library.
“I loved it,” Dallas said.
She said her students needed help learning simple tasks such as how to copy and paste, which may have frustrated other instructors.
“They all said I had a lot of patience, and that was really fulfilling,” she said.
“Volunteering is a part-time job for me,” Dallas said. “I’m a very humble person. I like to be behind-the-scenes. I’m pretty religious and I believe if I don’t get my blessings by man, I’ll get them by God.”
Dallas said the key to keeping up with other people is to listen.
“Listen to what’s going on in their lives, and you’ll know if you can help them or forward them on to someone that can help them,” she said.