Did you know Councilman Phil Dacey named one of his daughters after an Ayn Rand character? Or that Councilman Kai Hagen hitchhiked around Great Britain on his honeymoon? In Beyond the Ballot, the new post-election series in ‘72 Hours,’ we sit down with local legislators to learn more about their lives beyond the office. But politics aren’t off the table, either. Each wide-ranging interview covers crucial career moments, policy decisions, and the lessons they’ve learned in office. All part of really getting to know your elected officials.
You can follow Beyond the Ballot every Thursday in ‘72 Hours.’ Below are the condensed Q&As with our latest guests.
You mentioned you relocated to Frederick to establish your family, so tell me a little about them.
Dacey: Sure. I've got two daughters, and they're both at Yellow Springs Elementary School. And what's kind of neat about where we live is that — well, we live on the old Albaugh Farm, and I was friends with Nick Albaugh growing up. So, I actually played on his farm quite a bit. Unfortunately, the economics of farming have changed, and it's become more of a global business. Less local. Small farms are having a difficult time with commodity prices. And it was a dairy farm. So, in order for their family to do what was best, they had to sell and develop the farm. I know it still tugs at their hearts today that they had to sell the family farm. But we ended up buying one of the houses that was being developed on that farm. And we have a great neighborhood in Cannon Bluff. And what's kind of neat about my daughters is that right now, they'll end up going to the same schools that I did, growing up. So, all the way from preschool to high school, assuming that the district lines don't change at all. I think that's a pretty neat story. And some of the people that taught me are still there, believe it or not, in their elementary school, middle school, and then high school.
My dad was actually a teacher here for 30 plus years, and my mother is still working at the hospital as a nurse. So, my family has deep roots here in Frederick. And my wife is a small business owner. She is a marriage and family therapist and she's got a practice downtown. Actually, it's right down the street from Winchester Hall. So, we might be able to meet up for lunch once in a while. But I think my family has been very happy here in Frederick County. So much so that we convinced our in-laws, just a couple years ago, to move up here.
Dacey: Yeah, from Gaithersburg, actually. They retired and moved here to Frederick City. So, they live not too far from us in Worman's Mill.
Wow. That must be great for raising kids. Two sets of grandparents.
Dacey: Yeah, it's ideal for our kids to have that. They are very close to all of their grandparents and they're lucky in that way. We're lucky in that way. We also have a lot of childcare help.
And how did you and your wife meet?
Dacey: We met at the University of Maryland in College Park. We lived on the same floor in the public leadership program. And actually, back then, I was a pretty ardent Republican. I knocked on her door for the first time, trying to convince her to join the College Republicans. And she said, 'Well, I was president of my teenage Democrats.' So, I had a tough row to hoe, trying to convince her to join the College Republicans. Which I was never successful at. But we were successful in other ways. We've known each other for a long time. I think I met her when I was 18 and she was 18.
Wow, okay. How did you ask her out?
Dacey: Well, I asked her on a date, and funny enough, it was the day the Orioles were in the playoffs. And after they landed in the playoffs and were playing that night, I was kind of having second thoughts, because I was a big Orioles fan. But she ended up getting really sick. She got pneumonia.
Dacey: Yeah. So, she contracted pneumonia — I guess we didn't know it at the time — and I drove her to the health center. Our first date was actually at the University of Maryland Health Center. Then they said, 'You can't go on a date tonight. You gotta go home and rest.' And so, she rested. I got to watch the game, but — yeah, she was pretty sick for some time.
Did the Orioles win?
Dacey: I don't remember, funny enough. That was back in the day when the Orioles were still good.
Yeah. A long time ago
Dacey: (laughs) Yeah, that's how long ago we met.
And what about you? Are you a dog or a cat person?
Dacey: We have that argument at my house currently. I'm a cat person. My family is not as much a cat person. They would, I think, prefer a dog. But we'll see. We'll see who ends up winning that battle. We don't have either right now, but I would think a cat might be in our future moreso than a dog.
What about pie or cake? Where do you stand on the pie/cake divide?
Dacey: I'm more of a pizza person. So, if pizza's a pie, I'll definitely go with pie. I'd rather have pizza than dessert.
Pizza is a pie. I'll give it to you. And then, I was wondering, if you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would you have dinner with?
Dacey: Oh, boy. That's a good question. Living or dead? I mean, I think the Pope would be really interesting. The current Pope. He's just a fascinating individual and has a lot of interesting ideas about the Catholic Church and about life in general. I mean, who wouldn't want to take that opportunity, right? To talk with the Pope. And living or dead — I'll go with Abraham Lincoln. He's dead, right?
I think so.
Dacey: Yeah, Abraham Lincoln. Just a great thinker. Somebody that I've been fascinated with. I mean, he went through so much in his life and did so much as president of the United States. And of course, being interested in politics, I'd be interested to hear his take. And then, I would say, maybe Thomas Jefferson, would be one. That guy was so smart. I like to surround myself by smart people, you know? I like to hear their views and learn from them. Thomas Jefferson has just reached that level of genius that I guess most of us can't comprehend. He was a scientist, farmer, inventor. Wrote the Declaration of Independence at an age that — I think it was before he was 30? [ed. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence] And it’s still the basis for most democracies in the world. It's kind of a statement about who we are as a people, but also people around the world have used that for hundreds of years as a document to inspire and guide government. So, Thomas Jefferson would be one that would be really interesting to talk to.
Okay. So, two presidents and the Pope. And are you personally Catholic?
Dacey: I am.
Interesting. And do you have a favorite book of all time?
Dacey: Well, I have one daughter named Harper, and that's after Harper Lee. 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' That was one of my favorite books. And my other daughter's name is Kira, and that's after the main character in a novel called 'We the Living.' It's not one of the better-known novels, but I thought Kira was an amazing character in that novel. It's about the Russian Revolution. It was actually written by Ayn Rand, somewhat autobiographically for her. But it's a very strong female lead character, and so, my two daughters are Harper and Kira and they're both named after literary references.
And two such different authors, too.
Dacey: (laughs) I know. I'm open to differences of opinion and I like things that make me think differently. And both those books made me think about things in different ways and at different times. So, yeah. Ideas are important to me. I'm always about big ideas and thinking about big things.
Jumping off that, do you have three favorite movies. Three desert island movies?
Dacey: Well, I'm a big Coen brothers fan. So, 'The Big Lebowski' would have to be in there. And I like Alexander Payne's 'Sideways.' I'd say that's number 2. And number 3? 'Star Wars.'
Star Wars? Any particular one?
Dacey: I like the original 'Star Wars.' Those would be three good movies from three of my favorite directors.
What about your alcoholic drink of choice?
Dacey: I'm a Scotch guy. I like Scotch.
On the rocks, or neat, or—?
Dacey: On the rocks, yeah. I drink Glenlivet — that's my favorite. But, on the rocks, I'll pretty much drink any kind of Scotch.
And what are your biggest hobbies outside the office?
Dacey: (laughs) Politics. I've got a full-time job and a young family, so I'm fortunate that my wife indulges me and that I can engage in politics as kind of a hobby or a side hustle, whatever you want to call it. But I like baseball, I like to read. And spend time with my family. But yeah, reading. Watching baseball. Watching football. I'm a Redskins fan. I'm a sports guy. I watch the Redskins and the Orioles and Maryland basketball.
Do you and your family have a favorite restaurant in Frederick?
Dacey: You know what our favorite restaurant was — or mine was — was The Cozy up in Thurmont. Did you ever get to The Cozy?
No, I’ve never been there.
Dacey: It's not open anymore. It's now a car dealership. But oh, man, I was so sad when that closed down. I think that must have been three years ago now. It had the Camp David Museum in it for all the presidents, and Winston Churchill had been there, and it was a buffet. Yeah, that was really my favorite restaurant. A lot of our favorite restaurants have moved on. Danielle's was one of our favorite restaurants, which is now Ayse Meze. But, right now, I like the Mountain Gate Buffet up in Thurmont. That's kind of my go-to. I went there for my birthday. You know, we all choose a place to go for our birthday every year and I chose the Mountain Gate Buffet.
But I'm also a big pizza guy. Lintini's went out of business — Lintini's was my favorite pizza restaurant in Frederick and that went out of business. So, I've been having some bad luck with some of my favorite restaurants. You probably don't want me to name my favorite restaurant because it may not be around. It's bad luck.
Phil, you've been so nice to give me so much of your time, and I think the only question I have left for you is, if there are two facts that you think your constituents don't know about you, that you would like them to know, what are they?
Dacey: Hm. Two facts that they don't know. Let me see. I met Strom Thurmond once.
Okay. How was that?
Dacey: I just shook his hand. But it was towards the end of his life, so he wasn't really moving very well.
But, you know, I've never met my hero, Cal Ripken. That's somebody that I've never met, and it's one of those things where if I had a boy, I probably would have named him Calvin. After Cal Ripken. Growing up, that was my childhood idol, was Cal Ripken. And throughout my childhood, I always wanted to be number 8 on the baseball field. I've met Billy Ripken, his brother, who was pretty funny. But I've never met Cal Ripken, and I've had opportunities to. But for whatever reason, it's one of those things where I think I don't want to burst my childhood bubble. To see that he is a mortal. I prefer him to be idealized as the perfect man. So, if I ever see Cal Ripken on the street, I'll probably run in the other direction.
It'll be permanently unfulfilled on your bucket list.
Dacey: (laughs) Yeah. My goal is to never meet Cal Ripken.