2017-07-16 / News

Alex Petrie with Kevin Daley

From farming to politics, Daley finds joy in hard work

He was already comfortably settled in when I arrived, sitting contentedly. He always seems comfortable, no matter where he is. He doesn’t have to say a word, doesn’t even have to smile. His eyes do it for him. You can practically see the goodness radiating off of him.

Kevin Daley is 59 but doesn’t look it. He’s youthful. Approachable and American, he looks like he could be JFK’s younger brother. Or at least a cousin. When I first shook his hand, I first noticed the fact that I can feel the farm in his grip. Then I was quickly reminded of how familiar and comfortable he makes me feel. His wife of nearly 40 years, Debbie, makes me feel the same way. There’s something about them that just feels oddly familiar. Something like family.

For those of you that are somehow unfamiliar with Kevin Daley, I guess I should start by saying he’s a farmer. A fourth-generation farmer, to be exact, who owns and operates Daley Acres Farm in Lum. But more than that, Kevin is a family man. He and Debbie first met at church and married young. They have three kids. Michael, the oldest, Elizabeth, the only girl, and Thomas, the baby.

Kevin Daley Kevin Daley Kevin, who I learned during our interview is a twin, was born the fourth child of nine. Raised in Lapeer in an Irish Catholic home, he says his upbringing is an essential aspect of the man, husband and father that he has become. After attending Bishop Kelley, then Lapeer High School (Class of ’75), Kevin immediately went to work full-time on the farm right out of high school.

Though he never went to college, Kevin describes his “university” as a series of lessons and experiences, many of which stem from decades on the farm and the value of hard work. His “graduate school” was the political world, where he quickly and firmly established himself as a valuable and intelligent asset to his community and beyond.

“When I was about 48, my wife encouraged me to run for state rep, but I was still a dairy farmer, still milking cows,” he said. “And when you’re a dairy farmer, that’s 24/7/365 and twice a day. You’re tied down. So, I made the determination that I wasn’t going to run. But then, six years later, Thomas called and said he wanted to come home and farm full time. And I just thought, ‘This is the good Lord telling me that it’s time to do it.’”

During Daley’s run as state representative, he proudly and capably served his community from January 1, 2009 until December 31, 2014. One of the few farmers in the House, he was the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He focused his efforts with a group of like-minded individuals (The Fighting 43), who committed themselves to “providing solutions to problems” of all kinds.

During Kevin’s second term as state representative, he said things couldn’t have been going better, which was compounded by the joy he felt to know that his son, Thomas, had returned home to work on the farm. But that life and the life of his family took a sharp and catastrophic turn early in 2011 when Thomas was killed in a tragic accident on the farm.

“As far as I’m concerned, my wife and I and our family have gone through probably the worst possible thing a parent or a family can go through,” he said. “That’s honestly something that I wouldn’t ever wish on anyone. Thomas was supposed to come and take over, which is a father’s dream come true. And to lose him, I mean ‘tough’ doesn’t even begin to describe what we’ve gone through. We still can’t believe it most days. I honestly don’t know how anybody could go through this without God. That’s the only thing that’s gotten us through.”

Along with his unwavering faith, Kevin said that he and his family were humbled and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. And though it still hurts every day, he says that he appreciates each time he hears someone talk about his son, that it comforts him to know others still think about him.

To say that Kevin Daley is well-liked is an understatement of colossal proportions. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Lapeer County that dislikes the man. And, let’s be honest, for a politician to be universally liked is nothing short of miraculous. He started his political career at 20 years old on the Arcadia Township planning commission, working his way up to township trustee, then treasurer, then supervisor for 13 years. He won the election for state representative by a significant margin each time he ran, securing a legacy that would make any politician proud.

He ran against Mike Green for Michigan Senate’s 31st District back in 2014, eventually losing out by a paltry margin of less than 700 votes. And, without going into too much detail, let’s just say Daley wasn’t up against an opponent as much as he was up against the other candidate’s money. Though Green won, it only proved how strong a candidate Daley is. Because Green won by the skin of his teeth. But now, Daley’s back, and is excited to announce that he’s filed to run for the seat again in 2018.

Without sounding too much like a brownnoser or a backslapper, the simple fact is that there truly is something special about Kevin Daley. He’s an anomaly. Especially at a time as politically divisive as today. He crosses party lines and the invisible boundaries we create, defining what republicans and democrats are supposed to be.

And one thing’s for sure. Nobody can ever accuse the man of being lazy. I honestly don’t think he’s capable of it. He just doesn’t speak that language. He doesn’t loaf, he doesn’t lounge. It doesn’t make any sense to him.

“So, what do you do to relax?” I asked him. “How do you unwind?”

“Well,” he laughed, trying to think of an answer. “We have five grandkids now, so we just love to spend time with them.”

“Maybe you misunderstood the question,” I joked. “I don’t see how five grandchildren could possibly be relaxing.”

He laughed and nodded in understanding, but stood by his answer, following up by saying, “You know, I really do consider my job fun. I truly love farming. I’m not a golfer, and not much of a sports fan. I’d rather just get my work done. That’s what helps me relax.”

“I don’t understand how you do it all,” I said to him. “Especially dealing with other politicians. What keeps you going?”

“Honestly,” he said, thinking for a minute, “It’s the challenge of it all. I really love the challenge. And my goal is and always has been to stay true to myself and prove to (my opponents) that I just won’t let anybody get to me. Plus, I love helping people.”

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