If you were to make a list of the 10 most influential women
in northern DeKalb County, both Kay Shelton and Misty Haji-Sheikh
would likely be on it. But the two activists will no longer be
involved in local affairs, as they both have moved away.
Kay married Ed Kozak last summer and then decided to take
a position at the Northern Illinois University campus in Naperville,
moving to Bolingbrook. Misty and her husband, Michael, recently
moved to a small community near Las Vegas after his retirement
from teaching at NIU.
Kay is probably best known as the longest-serving president
of the Lincoln Highway Association (seven years and counting),
a nationwide group promoting the highway and its history. She
said she plans to hold that position at least through 2020 when
the national conference will be held in Illinois. This year is
the centennial of the first military convoy to travel the transcontinental
route, which included Dwight D. Eisenhower in the caravan.
Shelton also can be credited with revitalizing the dormant
chapter of the League of Women Voters of DeKalb County and has
headed the group since it was reorganized. In that role, she
moderated several candidate nights for local elections, which
were both well attended as well as broadcast live on the community
cable TV channel.
I would venture to say she is also a workaholic, holding
down no less than three jobs for years. Shelton taught classes
at Kishwaukee College, worked on the staff at NIU and worked
weekends at Walmart in the pharmacy department. She really hasnt
changed her work habits as she transferred to the Walmart store
in Oswego, still works for NIU at the Naperville campus and plans
to continue her ties to Kish College, teaching online courses
in anthropology and archaeology.
Kay Shelton at the microphone as she moderated a LWV
candidates forum. Misty Haji-Sheikh at her 60th birthday party
and farewell event at Rositas in DeKalb last week. (Schrader
photos for ShawMedia)
She also mentioned her time on the Egyptian Theatre board
as a rewarding experience. She now represents the League of Women
Voters on a statewide committee called Transform Illinois, which
is examining consolidating purchasing for local governments and
studying some other unification issues.
In Haji-Sheikhs 18 years in the county, she got involved
through political activism, which saw her elected as a Democrat
to the DeKalb County Board. She also finished second out of four
candidates in the race for DeKalb mayor in 2017. She said her
most rewarding experience was serving on the County Boards
Forest Preserve District committee, where they greatly increased
the amount of open lands and created a nationally recognized
birding area at the Afton Forest Preserve south of DeKalb. She
also spent time on the finance, economic development, and health
and human services committees during her six-and-a-half years
Asked when she first met her husband Michael, she said
it was in third grade in Arlington, Texas. They continued through
school together, both even working at Six Flags Over America
as teens. But she didnt begin dating him until he had earned
his bachelors degree, one of three degrees he earned at
the University of Texas at Arlington. She also graduated from
Something Haji-Sheikh will be remembered for in recent
times is her lawsuit to overturn the buyout package for departing
NIU President Doug Baker. The university board of trustees voted
to award Baker a $650,000 severance package, but violated the
Open Meetings Act, she contended. A lawsuit followed and she
was victorious, forcing the board to re-approve the buyout. And
the judge granted her $56,000 in legal costs that she incurred.
She then worked with a state legislator to limit the amount public
boards can pay departing executives and that has now been made
Misty commented that the small community where they are
moving isnt even incorporated, so that will likely curb
her political activism. But she has found a new interest
archaeology, and has already begun taking part in dinosaur fossil
digs not far from their new home.
Both women have been great newsmakers over the years and
deserve kudos for their dedicated community service and statewide
efforts in the public interest.