Leader, Advocate, Friend – Dan Chadwick’s Legacy in County Government

7 May 2024, by Seth Grigg Share :

With the recent passing of Dan Chadwick, the IAC family lost one of its fiercest advocates for county government. I first met Dan not long after graduating from Boise State University (BSU), while he was serving as the Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) executive director. Dr. Stephanie Witt, a professor in BSU’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, suggested I reach out to Dan about a potential opening with IAC. I took her advice, and soon after I was brought in for an interview. A few days later, Dan invited me out for ice cream, where he offered me a job as a policy analyst with IAC.

Dan had a way of making people feel comfortable around him, and I immediately felt at home within the association. In hiring me, Dan took a shot on a young kid with no previous local government experience. He allowed me to be involved in major policy issues from the start of my career, mentoring me in leadership development, and guiding me through various career opportunities culminating in my current position of IAC Executive Director. I would not be where I am today without Dan’s mentoring, guidance, and support.

Dan had a hand in so many important policy issues shaping county government law in Idaho. I cannot begin to list them all. Dan had a special affinity for the Idaho criminal justice system, playing a key role in shaping juvenile corrections, public defense delivery, and misdemeanor probation in Idaho. Dan served on various statewide commissions and boards including POST Council and the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission, on which he continued to serve as its vice chair until his passing. Dan participated in and led many National Association of Counties (NACo) initiatives and held leadership roles with the National Council of County Association Executives (NCCAE). As a thought leader, he was deeply respected and known for his passion for education and professional development, as he helped shape national training programs for state association executives, as well as national policy development regarding county government.

While Dan’s legislative and policy accomplishments are many, I’ll remember Dan most for his giant heart. He was a friend to all who were fortunate enough to come into contact with him. It did not matter who you were, where you were from, or what your political or religious leanings were; Dan had a place in his heart for you. Dan opened his home to all and brought people into his life, including the thousands of county officials he befriended over his 27 years of service to IAC.

The best example of Dan’s big heart was his work in areas of substance abuse and mental health policy. Later in Dan’s career, he was drawn to advancing state policies in support of those dealing with mental illness. Dan organized summits between county officials, legislators, the judiciary, and other policy makers to find solutions to address policy problems surrounding substance abuse and mental illness. Dan was a pioneer in this area, partnering with the Idaho Department of Corrections to produce weighted blankets which were distributed to county sheriffs and prosecutors offices around the state to assist in caring for individuals dealing with emotional trauma and mental health crises.

For those unfamiliar with weighted blankets, they are blankets filled with pellets or beads to increase the weight, which then produces a calming pressure on the body similar to being hugged, held, or swaddled. Weighted blankets are a tool used to help to reduce stress and can even lower heart rates because of the calming sensation. Weighted blankets serve as a good parable for Dan, and I’m sure that’s what drew him to making them available to those in need.

Like a weighted blanket, Dan was a source of comfort to those who knew him. In one moment, Dan was advising governors, at another, helping ease the stress of a county official or staff member having a hard day. While Dan trained and guided countless county officials over the years, was the author of key legislative bills impacting county government, and led IAC into the organization that it is today, Dan will be most fondly remembered as a dear friend to those who had the pleasure of building a relationship with him. Dan Chadwick truly was a weighted blanket to those around him, and the world is a better place because of him.