Interview with George Danos (Econ 1997), Champaign County Auditor

Photo by: The News-Gazette


Champaign County Auditor | Finally adding up


New Champaign County Auditor George Danos talks about his new position at his office at Brookens in Urbana on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.

You don't need to own an actuarial calculator like the one GEORGE DANOS always keeps close by to tabulate the votes he lost by in two previous runs for office: 2,036 shy in 2012 + 36 short in 2016 = heartache. "When the Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016, I thought I'd finally win, too. But I had to wait two more years," says the Democrat, who had better luck in round 3. Champaign County's recently sworn-in new auditor sat down with Tim Mitchell for a wide-ranging Q&A.

You won handily in November, two years after an oh-so-close call against John Farney. How frustrating was that 2016 election for you?

Frustrating isn't the word. It was tantalizing. After this year's election, my philosophy was: In 2016, I lost by zero percent, and in 2018, I won by 12 percent.

How do you lose by zero? It was 0.04 and a rounding error.

I nearly toppled an incumbent in a year that a Republican candidate prevailed for president nationally. You never forecast that you will lose. I kept thinking, "If I could just win even by a little bit." But you can also lose by just a little bit.

After the loss in 2016, I continued what I was doing — working for Ernst & Young's Chicago office. I knew that I would run another time. The close loss motivated me to make another go at becoming county auditor.

You hold the distinction of being the first CPA to be elected auditor. Was becoming an accountant your dream growing up?

As a kid, I thought being a fireman was exciting. I had a lot of interests. I was strong in math, and I enjoyed history. I really put off a specific career choice.

But I always liked math, so I studied economics. I got my bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Illinois, and then I returned for a master's in applied mathematics.

Accounting is the intersection of math and economics. Actuarial science was my specialty.

What drove you to become a CPA?


In the aftermath of my 2012 defeat, I noted that one thing the voters would have a lot of confidence in for this position would be a CPA. So I got another master's degree in another quantitative financial field — accountancy. I decided to re-enter school to obtain my CPA.

I completed the one-year master's of accountancy program at the University of Illinois. That's how I became a triple alumnus of the university.

Now-state Treasurer Mike Frerichs once held this office. Did you seek his advice before you began your campaign?

In 2012, when I decided to run, I went straight to Mike Frerichs. I asked him what it takes to be an auditor and how you interface with the county board. He shared his experience with me. It was very helpful.

Is there anything fun about accounting?

I think it is the discovery of amounts that you can recoup on behalf of your employer. That's exciting.

I hope to do just that for the people of Champaign County, but no promises yet.

When you were a kid, whose poster was on your bedroom wall?

I had a big poster of President John F. Kennedy with these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

I admired John Kennedy because of my father, Panayotis Danos. He was an immigrant to this country. He came to the United States from Greece to attend the University of Kansas in 1958.


He's a Jayhawk. My mother was born in Wisconsin.

Did you ever get a chance to visit Greece?

I did. When I was a kid, I was so impressed. We had to be quiet in the afternoon because they took siestas seriously.

I didn't know that I had that many relatives in Greece. Wow. I thought I was isolated, but then I found out that my family came from a lot of branches.

I got to see all the ancient Greek structures that I had only read about. That was very moving for me.

You attended Deerfield High School in the Chicago suburbs. What activities were you involved in back then?

I belonged to the Model United Nations. I was the statistician for the high school track team. My sophomore year, I got a varsity letter for being the statistician.

I was a member of the forensics team. My specialty was extemporaneous speaking.

Last thing: Tell us something people might not know about you.

My cat is a Russian Blue. Its name is Boris. I thought it would be a name that matched the breed.

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