SHABBONA – Frank Ottengheime doesn’t like to talk about himself.
The Shabbona Village Board member and volunteer fire chief would rather chat about improving Shabbona. On June 29, Ottengheime was the grand marshal for Shabbona’s Hometown Festival parade after being selected Hometown Citizen of the Year. He recently spend a few moments to talk with reporter Andrea Azzo.
Azzo: What made you decide you wanted to run for Village Board?
Ottengheime: I saw things in the community that needed to be fixed or changed. The only way you can get them fixed is to get in there and do it yourself or with the help of other people.
Azzo: What type of problems did you see?
Ottengheime: We need economic development. All these small towns are struggling with keeping people in towns, keeping schools going and keeping the business districts alive.
Azzo: As a volunteer firefighter, what do you do?
Ottengheime: We do the same exact things as they do in DeKalb, but we’re not compensated like they are in DeKalb. We’re not paid. It’s a group of individuals that see a need and are willing to volunteer their time and effort to the community.
Azzo: Why did you want to volunteer?
Ottengheime: The need is here. There’s no less of a need here in a small town like Shabbona. People have the same problems. We have small fires. Not as many people live here, but they still need the same services. If we were to get a call right now, we’d have an ambulance out there in three minutes, and that’s due to the dedication of the volunteers here.
Azzo: What was the parade like for you?
Ottengheime: They came to me and asked if I’d like to be Hometown Citizen of the Year. It’s humbling to think people in town think it should be me. I think there’s a lot of people who deserve it more than I do. There’s a 90-year-old lady in town who is the heart ... of the N.I.C.E. Center (a food pantry). There’s a lot of that in this town and, I assume, other small towns around us.
Azzo: The fire department has 25 volunteer firefighters. What’s it like to know you have all that help?
Ottengheime: It’s a really good feeling to know you can get help from your neighbors. We’re fortunate at the fire department: We have a group of young people willing to volunteer their time. There seems to be a trend that they don’t volunteer. I see other community groups with people getting older and young people aren’t helping. I wish young people explored the opportunities here in town and help where they can.