The ROX Interview: Dennis Dugan

interview-winter16

Dennis Dugan:

Raising Cows – The Journey from Wisconsin to Arizona

Interview by Brett Eisele – Winter 2016

GC LIVING: Dennis, you grew up in Wisconsin?

Dennis Dugan: Yes.

GC LIVING: How many generations of dairymen are in your family?

Dennis Dugan: My grandfather started the dairy operation in probably the 1880’s, 1890’s and then my dad took over in the 1940’s.

GC LIVING: Was it the same home place, all the way through?

Dennis Dugan: No, my parents moved from a town called Maple Grove to Clarks Mills, Wisconsin and interestingly, they didn’t move the cows by trailer they just walked them to the new place. In those days you could do that.

GC LIVING: And were those the days where you would get up in the morning, do the milking and put the cans out by the road?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. In the early days when they were milking, the milk would be put in the cans, they would put the milk cans out on the road and that milk would be picked up and delivered to a cheese plant. Because it was raw milk, not pasteurized, it was Grade B milk. Grade B milk would only go for cheese and powder, it could not be classified as class A, because class A has to be pasteurized and the milk has to be kept cool at thirty-eight degrees. They eventually built a cement area inside the milk barn and then filled it with water. The water was then refrigerated and they put the cans in the cold water. That kept the milk cold and then the trucks would come pick up the cans and haul them off. With that change, the milk could then be used as drinking milk because it was considered Grade A.

Today, 99% of all milk is Grade A. It comes out of the cow at 101 degrees, cow temperature, and then goes into a pipeline through a cooling system and into a milk tank. Within 45 seconds, it goes from 101 degrees to 38 degrees. Before it hits that tank it’s cooled down to 38 degrees.

GC LIVING: Is that the pasteurization process?

Dennis Dugan: No, no. In Arizona, pasteurization takes place by three primary handlers; Shamrock, Safeway, and Fry’s. There’s an independent guy out in Yuma called Hein Hettinga Farms that also does it. He operates under a brand known as Sara Farms which you see in Wal-Mart.

GC LIVING: So, the tankers pick up the milk from you-

Dennis Dugan: At 38 degrees, yes. Our milk is delivered to a co-op called United Dairymen of Arizona. There are 71 dairymen in Arizona and all but 3 belong to the co-op. Those three are Shamrock, HeinHettinga, and a guy by the name of LaSalvia. Shamrock bottles their own milk, Hettinga milks his own cows and LaSalvia ships his milk to California.

GC LIVING: When did you enter the picture? At the farm back in Wisconsin?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. When we grew up in Wisconsin, our dad had us on a tractor when we were 6 years old. He would put us out in the field, by ourselves, with a small 65 horsepower tractor, on a disk with a hand clutch, because we weren’t big enough to touch the brakes, so we’d pull by hand clutch. All he would say was stay away from the fences and he’d leave us for two, three hours.

GC LIVING: How big was the farm?

Dennis Dugan: Mom and dad farmed 500 acres and we milked about 68 cows in Wisconsin. That was in late 50’s early 60’s. My dad started getting sick with double-pneumonia or pleurisy they called it at that time. His hands and legs would swell up and he’d be in the hospital for a month and then he’d be in the house for two months. Finally the doctors told him, “you’ve gotta get out of here”, because we lived right next to Lake Michigan in a cold and damp climate. The doctors said we won’t be able to save you the next time you get sick. So they made several trips to Arizona and every time he felt like a million bucks! We actually had three separate farms in Wisconsin for the total of 500 acres; he sold two and kept one farm in case he decided to come back. We moved to Chandler, Arizona in August of 1962. We went from a seven bedroom house to a two bedroom house. All six of us boys were in one room and my parents were in the other room. So we set up three sets of bunk beds. It was 110 degrees when we arrived and there was only a small swamp cooler.

GC LIVING: Did you ever go back to Wisconsin?

Dennis Dugan: One of the boys went back. My brother, Tom, went back and got married, but later returned to Arizona.

GC LIVING: Did you lease the Wisconsin farm to another producer?

Dennis Dugan: Yes and then it was sold after a couple of years because my mom and dad knew they weren’t going to go back. When we moved here in 1962 Dad went to work for another dairyman and then a year later, he started building his own dairy, in Chandler, with 44 milk cows. Our family has built that original operation from 44 milk cows in 1962 to where we milk over 20,000 milk cows today.

GC LIVING: How many of your brothers are still in the business?

Dennis Dugan: All my brothers are still in the business except the one brother Richard Dugan. Richard was on a ski trip years ago when he hit some black ice on the road and wrecked. He hit his head and was in a coma for 10 days; he came out of it, but only recovered about 95% of his memory. He stayed involved and kept dairying for 10 years after that but then he sold out.

GC LIVING: How many dairies are now at the Overfield Road facility in Casa Grande?

Dennis Dugan: There are three dairies there and another one just a half a mile down the road, so there are four actual facilities.

GC LIVING: There’s also a Dugan dairy on the West side of the County as well?

Dennis Dugan: Yes, that’s my brother Tom; he’s the largest of us all. So there are five of us here and then I have a brother Mike who is dairying in Idaho.

GC LIVING: So you’re all in Chandler and the phenomenal growth has arrived at the dairies front door. Is that when you sold out and moved to Pinal County?

Dennis Dugan: No. Basically, what happened was, my mom and dad helped each of us get started dairying. There were six of us boys Tom, Richard, Mike, Pat, Dan and me. What dad and mom would do was build a dairy, lease one of us the dairy and start it with so many cows. Once it got going, they’d sell us the dairy and then they would build another one right next door. They built three dairies in Chandler, then one down here. Actually, on the first dairy,they just co-signed a note for my brother Tom which was in Higley. My parents sold the original place and some other land on the corner of Dobson and Germann and moved to Casa Grande.

Over time, each of us individually sold our dairy units in the southeast valley and moved to Pinal County.

GC LIVING: Did you go to college?

Dennis Dugan: Yes, I went to UofA and graduated there 1972. Then, I went to Milwaukee, Oregon which is suburb of Portland. There was an ag teacher at the U of A that was from that area who told me about it and I wanted to get away and try something different. So I decided to go to Oregon. I went up there; I did that for a year and almost starved to death. I signed a $7,200.00 contract for twelve months in 1973.

GC LIVING: What were you teaching? What grade?

Dennis Dugan: Freshmen through seniors in high school and I taught vocational agriculture.

GC LIVING: After the year did you realize the error of your ways and came home?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. I quit and came home.

GC LIVING: We have spoken earlier about different stories and there was one story that stuck in my mind and I’m not going to mention this story because you said that I can’t publish it, but I have to get an answer to a question involving that story, and you know what I’m talking about.

Dennis Dugan: Yes.

GC LIVING: When your parents came home and saw the paint job, what did they do to you?

Dennis Dugan: Uh- a belt. There was a belt.

GC LIVING: So, you got whupped.

Dennis Dugan: We got whupped that time. My mom would use a belt, my mom was the only one that took a belt to us, and probably in my lifetime, I got the belt maybe three times.

GC LIVING: Did you have older brothers?

Dennis Dugan: The older brothers always pulled me into these things. One brother was kind of a fire bug, and we had a fire when my dad was off traveling. My dad’s at the county fair with two brothers who were showing animals. My mother is in the hospital having our last brother Danny. My grandmother was home and there was only me and one brother there and that was the one that always pulled me into all this stuff, he was a firebug and so he calls me out in the garage. There were flames shooting up into the ceiling, so my grandmother called the fire department. I was only, I think, six or seven at the time.

GC LIVING: Being that far out it must have been a volunteer fire department?

Dennis Dugan: Volunteer fire department, which was about three, four miles away. So, before the fire department came a hired man came in and he saw the fire, so he started hauling water in and by the time the fire department got there, he got it knocked down pretty good. In the meantime, the volunteer fire department arrived. So did neighbors. There were thirty cars in the driveway to our farm. Everybody- all the neighbors were helping the fire department, and then my dad drives in the driveway. I tell you…

GC LIVING: [laughter] you got out of that one though, right?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. Yes, that was my brother. I had nothing to do with that and another time he took a waste basket and started it on fire and pulled it down into the basement and I was with him too at that time. I got a whipping on that one because he pulled me into it. Started a wastebasket on fire under the sink and then we- it was smoking, and then we pulled it down into the basement. My mom comes home from the grocery store and there’s smoke pouring out of the basement. We paid for that one.

GC LIVING: All right, so back to the story. You have returned to Chandler after the Oregon experience and you all had your own dairies. Did all the brothers decide to sell at the same time?

Dennis Dugan: No, no. It was all at different times. I came back after five years. After I was a teacher I came back, but I still stayed off the farm because Mom and Dad were setting all the other brothers up. I worked as a salesman for a milk equipment company that sold supplies to the dairymen. I got to know all the dairymen in the state pretty well. Then I worked for Farm Bureau insurance for two years. Then I came back to the dairy. I didn’t come back until 1979.

GC LIVING: When you say you came back to the dairy-

Dennis Dugan: I stopped working at other businesses. I came back to my mom and dad’s dairy and worked for my dad for six months. There was a dairy for lease about a mile down the road. I leased that dairy for two years. Because it only had a two year lease, I had to go get another dairy. In the early 1980s Chandler /Gilbert had a ton of dairies and the cities were booming with home construction. So, I wondered where could mom and dad go and build a dairy for me? The only place you could build a dairy was out in Queen Creek. Out there that land was 10,000 dollars an acre at that time. I learned there was one dairyman by the name of Mike Homenhousen that built a dairy at Eleven Mile Corner. Anyway, I came down to talk to Mike because you could buy land down here for a thousand bucks an acre. When I first came here, the real estate people all showed me land on the West side of town. And I said no because we learned something in Chandler. You build in a growth pattern. At that time, in 1980, Florence Blvd. was only a two lane highway out to I-10. I think the town stopped at Colorado Street. There was no shopping center or anything here in 1980 and I said, “I want to build between there, I want land between Florence Blvd. (HWY 287) and the college.” We bought all that land for a thousand to two thousand dollars an acre.

GC LIVING: Had your dad retired by this time?

Dennis Dugan: No. My dad didn’t retire until he was 69.

GC LIVING: Did he come down here? Or did he stay in Chandler?

Dennis Dugan: No, he stayed in Chandler. But I have to say when I went to college I met some guys who were from here. The Benedicts, and the Meyers and all of them lived here, so I was drawn to Casa Grande.

GC LIVING: Are all of the twenty thousand cows we spoke of earlier here in Pinal County?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. Also, I think this is noteworthy – – in 1980, Pinal County was ranked 232nd in the United States for number of milk cows in the county and today Pinal County is now ranked 18th in the United States. We have ninety-thousand milk cows within thirty miles of Casa Grande. We came that far in the dairy industry because of all the dairies built in Pinal County. Pinal County is in the top 20 dairy counties in the United States. Most people don’t realize that. The only reason the big dairy processing plants built by Ehrmann Yogurt plant, Franklin Cream Cheese, and Daisy happened was because there are ninety thousand milk cows within thirty miles of Casa Grande.

GC LIVING: Does all of the milk from your operations go to these plants?

Dennis Dugan: Right now all of the milk out of my particular barn is going to Daisy. But, on any given day, United Dairymen of Arizona routes that milk. They determine what goes where. There are days that my milk might go to Daisy. Daisy actually comes out and inspects my dairy. Some of my brothers’ milk is going to Franklin Cream Cheese or Ehrmann Yogurt.

GC LIVING: Referring back to the original conversation, when the milk leaves your dairy, its 38 degrees?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. You can put a load of milk into tanker at 38 degrees, in Phoenix, Arizona in the middle of the summer and haul it all the way to New York, without refrigeration, and it might lose one or two degrees! Our tankers are like a thermos jug.

GC LIVING: Is it safe to say, during the week, all of the milk that’s produced in this area stays in this area?

Dennis Dugan: No. I would say probably, 75% has to go up to the co-op in Tempe. There’s that much milk here, that most of the milk still has to go up there.

There has always been an excess of milk here. In the co-op, there are two cheese plants, there’s a powder plant and then there’s a butter plant. All the excess milk goes into those plants because only about 30% of the milk goes into the bottle in Arizona. From all the milk that we produce, only a third of our milk goes into bottles for drinking.

GC LIVING: And the rest of it is just…

Dennis Dugan: It goes into these three processing plants. Another big thing that most people don’t know is the Ross/Abbott plant here in Casa Grande takes a lot of condensed milk because all of the Ensure products and baby food is processed with condensed milk. They take tons of condensed milk every day. We ship it up the co-op and condense the milk down, and then ship it back to Ross/Abbott.

GC LIVING: So the odds are, if you go shop at Fry’s or Safeway and you buy some house brand sliced cheese, there’s a good possibility that cheese originated at your dairy or one of your brother’s dairies?

Dennis Dugan: No, our milk goes to the UDA. Now, the UDA ships some of the cheese to Green Bay. Sliced cheese is made in Green Bay, Wisconsin and then sold to Burger King, McDonald’s and others

GC LIVING: Let me jump back, to Wisconsin. You were talking about how you would operate a 65 horsepower tractor when tilling the soil. How did your dad and your grandfather work the fields prior to those tractors?

Dennis Dugan: Tractors didn’t really come into effect, probably until the 30’s early 40’s. Most of the farmers did everything with draft horses as did my dad and he still worked horses in the fifties a little bit.

GC LIVING: But it went further than that concerning your dad and draft horses, right?

Dennis Dugan:  Yes. In the Midwest, especially in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, there are horse pulling contests just like there is tractor pulling contests. My dad in 1949 won the national championship for horse pulling. His team pulled twenty-four and a half ton, thirty-three feet. He sold those horses in 1949 and he got eleven thousand dollars for them. In 1949 that was huge, that’d be over a hundred grand today, I would think. That’s where he got his money to keep expanding in the dairy business. In 1952 he got rid of the draft horses and put all his efforts into the dairy. Then when he retired a couple of my brothers went out and bought him draft horses to play with and he worked the draft horses here. Then he shipped them to Wisconsin for the horse pulling contest.

GC LIVING: What a happy guy.

Dennis Dugan: Yeah, he was just tickled to death with them.

GC LIVING: When you first got started in Casa Grande was it rough at first?

Dennis Dugan: Yes, but It was interesting… the people down here weren’t used to dairies. A dairy operation runs twenty-four hours a day and you have to have service twenty-four hours a day. The barns run twenty-four hours a day… So when I went to local businesses at that time when we were building the place, we got bids from the local people that handle the mechanical, coolers, whatever… and everything was higher here. All the bids came in higher, so most of all my construction guys had to come out of the Valley because of the lower bids. When I had to drill a well I told the well driller here, “if that well goes down on Christmas Eve you’re going to have to come out and pull that well… we can’t wait till the next morning for you to pull it out because we can’t be without water”. He said no, we don’t do that. So I had to go back up to the Valley and have a driller come down here because they offered twenty-four hour seven day a week service. It took a while, but eventually as the dairies came in, the business caught on. But I took a little heat when I first came down here because I wasn’t spending money locally, but today I’m doing a lot of business with local folks. I think I’ve changed and so have they.

GC LIVING: Initially, did you bring employees down from the other dairies?

Dennis Dugan: No. We hired locally. Interestingly, most dairy workers in Arizona are Hispanic. Actually, 99.9% of our workers are Hispanic.

GC LIVING: Well it is a noble business.

Dennis Dugan: Its hard work but we pay competitive wages and we reward those who do well. Our managers are making pretty good money. Four or five of our operators are making six figure salaries.

GC LIVING: And you have housing for them on site.

Dennis Dugan: Some of the dairies used to have housing for everybody, but we got away from that. The reason why was the families worked together all day and then lived right next to each other and spent all their time together. Everything got too close. There were fights – so we got away from it.

GC LIVING: Do the dairies have their own veterinarians?

Dennis Dugan: Yes we have a vet.

GC LIVING: With twenty thousand head of cattle you must need a vet on call.

Dennis Dugan: Yes my brother Tom is the largest, he has ten thousand head and he has in-house vets. You still have outside vets that come in and the reason for that is because the outside vets go around to all the dairies and get to see what’s going on. If a disease comes in, they know how to handle it. The in-house vets are often from overseas, many from Africa and they work strictly in-house and therefore don’t know what’s going on at the other dairies and so forth.

GC LIVING: One last question before I move on to another subject is in the early late 80’s or early 90’s there was this big to do with aflatoxin. What was that all about and did that affect the dairy industry.

Dennis Dugan: I think it occurred in the eighties I don’t remember exactly. Every dairyman was starting to feed cotton seed to the cows. Its real high in fat and protein, but the cottonseed had aflatoxin in it which is a mold that grows because of the heat and some seed has it, some seed doesn’t. So all of the sudden the feds came in and tested our milk and it had aflatoxin in it.

Well it was a disaster; it was front page news for three or four days. All the milk had to be dumped because of the aflatoxin and then we had to put safe guards in place. We started testing for aflatoxin. Every load of milk is tested for aflatoxin today. It was a huge problem and not a dairyman in the state had probably ever heard of it until then.

GC LIVING: Are those big, long white storage bags on your dairy needed because of aflatoxin?

Dennis Dugan: The long white bags, yeah there’s ammonia in there that kills the aflatoxin and you can also store regular clean seed in the bags, but we also put everything else in it, we put alfalfa in it, hayage, stuff like that, It’s also used as a storage.

There was another government action that affected Pinal County dairies. I think it was early ‘85 or ‘86 there was a Dairy Herd Buyout program the government started where they would buy your cattle but you agreed your dairy would sit idle for three years. The Rugg dairy on Peart Road fit that program and he went and sold his dairy cows. In about 1989 a dairyman by the name of Gingg bought the Rugg Dairy. He wanted to open the dairy back up, but some of the neighbors started raising heck. The county tried to shut it down by passing zoning regulations.

I went to talk to the county because their zoning regulations didn’t consider dairy operations agriculture, which was insane. What the county officials also didn’t understand was dairies are exempt from state regulation.

A suit was filed against the county. The county ended up writing a check for $250-some thousand to that dairyman and that’s the way it still is today. All dairies are exempt from all regulation except for two things, septic tanks and electric, that’s the only thing that has to be inspected. If the county won that suit, there wouldn’t be many dairies in Pinal County at all.

GC LIVING: Now you’ve become pretty successful. You’ve been at it since the ‘80s and you’re doing it pretty well. Now we are seeing your philanthropic side. Every town has non-profit organizations and your name is affiliated with many of them, so you’re starting to get involved in the community.

Dennis Dugan: Basically our family’s Irish and when I was young, we would always take the day off and hold a big St. Patrick’s Day Party on St. Patrick’s Day. So when I got down here and I married my wife Kelly, we settled down and didn’t do that for years because there was a business to run and a family to raise. After a while my brother Tom and I started the celebration again probably about 17 years ago. Initially, we had our friends and family for lunch and we would celebrate the day. Well after 4 years, things started getting bigger and bigger, I turned it into a dairy event. We had all the dairymen get together to socialize. Later we got “sponsors”, the people who we did business with, and who sold supplies to each of our dairies. That was a lot of business and as a result, they would sponsor the party for awhile. It was just the dairymen and we had 180, 200 people and we raised enough money from our sponsors to cover the cost of the party. It was another way for the dairymen to socialize, it was a social event.

Well after a while, we had money left over from the party and we built up a reserve fund. I built up too much of a reserve fund and so, oh, four years ago, five years ago, over a two-year period, we gave $15,000 to the Boys and Girls Club because we didn’t need the excess money. Then I asked myself, what should be the next step? It’s a good cause, you’ve got all these people coming and our sponsors were growing, so we formed the Dugan’s St. Patrick’s Foundation. I hoped that every year we could raise $25,000 – $30,000 for the Boys and Girls Club. That was two years ago. The first year we netted $81,000 and it just blew me away. We gave $20,000 to the Boys and Girls Club, $20,000 for ag scholarships and then to kids in need in our community.

We kept enough money to help with the next year’s party. But again I asked myself, “What should be our next step?” I knew up in the valley, you have like five or six organizations like the Compadres, Thunderbirds and the Scottsdale Charros.

Between them they raise about $30 million a year. And most of the money goes to students, hospitals, the Boys and Girls Clubs and to different charities in the area. So I said “Why don’t we start one down here?” I thought we need it more than anybody else because we have 350,000 people in this county and the need here is great. So I got started and in May of 2014, we met at Golden Eagle Distributors. At that first meeting, we had about 25, 30 guys show up. I had the president of the Compadres make a presentation. And we talked to these 25 guys and we, you know, set things up. It took us three months to figure out a name and we settled on Pinal 40. At the present time, we are up to 38 members. Basically we already had an event with the St. Patrick’s Day party which I knew would raise money.

But then what we did was we turned it into a three-day event! Our idea was to bring all these dairy farmers in from all over the country. Then the corporate guys will follow. Rock is one of the members. You were too, Brett. The first year the event netted $184,000! We gave $135,000 of that away. $40,000 to Boys and Girls Club, $40,000 to ag scholarships, $10,000 FFA, $10,000 to the County Fair, $15,000 to various charities, and $20,000 to an endowment fund. So our goal is to eventually get 40 members. Each member has to raise $5000. Personally, my goal is to have Pinal 40 raise a half a million dollars a year. There are a lot of great organizations in this town that need help. Our next step is to go out into corporate America to the big corporations who are involved in the dairy industry.

GC LIVING: And to date they have never really been approached?

Dennis Dugan: They’ve never really been approached. We also recognize we need to give all of our sponsors, especially the corporations, a platform to interact with agri-producers. So we have an agricultural event and we decided to call it the “Arizona Ag Experience”. It covers all of Arizona. You have to think big!

GC LIVING: Don’t you offer tours, baseball games and well known speakers from the industry?

Dennis Dugan: We do tours at Stanfield and Casa Grande. This year our primary event’s being held in Chandler at the San Marcos Hotel. Our speaker is Ken Thomas, who survived the Black Hawk Down incident. He will be inspirational and discuss the importance of planning. That’s true for dairy farmers too… planning. The reason why we have to have that in Chandler is because there’s not a facility down here big enough to hold it. We’ve booked 180 rooms. We still have our St. Patrick’s Day party down here. We’re hoping to raise $300,000 this year.

GC LIVING: How many people were at the last St. Patrick’s Day party?

Dennis Dugan: 525 people.

GC LIVING: And how many had you expected?

Dennis Dugan: I was figuring maybe 300. I didn’t expect that many.

GC LIVING: I know you have a vision for a five-year plan, ten-year plan for this organization. The first year was way beyond your expectations.

Dennis Dugan: Yes it was. But Pinal County needs a lot of help too. You’ve got cities like Coolidge and Eloy and Maricopa, they don’t have a Boys and Girls Club. The need here is great. So hopefully we can open up future Boys and Girls Clubs, we can give to needy kids in all those area where there is no help now. This last year, we gave $2,500 to homeless teenagers. Nobody knows this but there are over a hundred homeless teenagers in the city of Maricopa. You know there’s got to be homeless teenagers in Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy and Florence. We want to raise all this money so we can give it back, the money stays in the community where the need is great. A lot of the money is coming out of the Phoenix area though.

GC LIVING: But you’ll take it wherever you can get it?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. That’s true.

GC LIVING: With every successful philanthropic venture in this country, usually the person that puts together and organizes and that is the keyword of this, ‘organize’, because you’re bringing in key people that can get the job done to fulfill your vision. I’m glad we talked about it because guys like you never want credit for anything and sometimes you need to receive the credit.

GC LIVING: There was a period in your career a few years ago where you decided you needed to get into politics. Tell us about that.

Dennis Dugan: For about 10 or 12 years, I was involved with the St. Anthony’s School Board; then I got involved with the FFA and with a lot of help we took the FFA Steak Fry to a different level, which is great because it continues today. I was always involved in the community, community events, and so I thought, well, it’s time that I get involved in another way and I wanted to get involved with the county. I told myself “it’s part of giving back”. It certainly wasn’t for the salary, I think at that time it was $53,000. I was frustrated with what was going on at the county. And then when I started digging more and more into the county, and I discovered a tremendous amount of waste over there. I reviewed the budget for the last three years and grew irritated.

I said there’s … We need somebody in there that can make a difference and I figured that I could make a difference. And that’s primarily the reason I ran. I lost by, I think, 220 votes or so… It kind of hurts when you lose, but after six or eight months you move on. It turned out for the best.

GC LIVING: (Laughs.) While I still have you, where did you meet your wife Kelly?

Dennis Dugan: When I came down here in ‘81, I was very fortunate to meet my wife. I first met her at Cotton Hill. We started dating. Her name was Kelly Hackler. I was blessed to have met a great gal like Kelly and we got married in 1985. Kelly has been my go-to person when I am faced with challenges, say the wrong thing, or anything else, but, uh…

GC LIVING: Which is quite often!

Dennis Dugan: Yes, quite often… because I put my foot in my mouth a lot of times. But she is great. She’s a great person to bounce things off of. She has been my strength to get through all the things I’ve been through in my lifetime in the last 31 years. Her mother Nadine and dad Hack have been living with us for six years and she’s been the caregiver and it takes a special person to do that. She’s just a, just a great woman and I’m very, very lucky to have her as my partner.

GC LIVING: She’s the one who covers what we affectionately refer to as “Duganisms”.

Dennis Dugan: Yes. (Laughs) . . . the “Duganisms”. Ever since I was born I have had a speech impediment. To compensate, I make up words, so what we do is we call them “Duganisms”.

GC LIVING: Are you the only brother involved in civic affairs?

Dennis Dugan: My brother Pat has been involved in the community greatly. He’s been on the Pinal County planning and zoning board for six, seven years. He’s been a chairman of the United Way, you know, he’s been extremely involved in the community and all my brothers, if they’re not involved in the community, they do give back to the community through donations and so forth. My brother Richard was the mayor of Chandler. My brother Richard was a mayor and so really our family has been involved with politics for a while.

GC LIVING:  Are your days of wanting to be a politician over?

Dennis Dugan: Yes. My wife told me it’s over with. I trust her on that. Yes, it’s over.