How former St. Charles mayor, Geneva lawyer joined forces for 'Just a Coupla Guys' podcast

After years of teaching business classes at St. Charles (East) High School and later serving as mayor of St. Charles from 2013 to 2021, Ray Rogina has built a reputation as a well-rounded thinker and straight shooter.

As such, it was at least different and even slightly humorous to see him smiling with a large portrait of prolific pot smoker and reggae megastar Bob Marley behind him.

The same could be said of former Kane County assistant state's attorney and Geneva lawyer Pat Crimmins, who had banners and large marquee letters of the Jimi Hendrix mantra "Kiss the Sky" behind him.

But that was the setting last week when Rogina and Crimmins took part in another of their ongoing "Just a Coupla Guys" podcasts, this time with a live session at Kiss the Sky record shop in Batavia.

Nearly seven months ago, Rogina and Crimmins held a podcast launch party at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. They declared their friendship (with Crimmins being a former student of Rogina) had created a special chemistry for the gift of gab, as well as an ability to chat about any number of topics.

It didn't take long for the light bulb to eventually shine above their heads with the idea of taking their skill sets into the podcast world.

With the support of sponsoring advertisers and the work of producer Paul Stukel, the CEO of Nexxus Publishing, and Kevin Ketchum, publisher of Fox Valley Magazine, Rogina and Crimmins had recorded nearly 30 podcasts since their debut on April 22, an interview with actor Jim Belushi when he was in the area for a performance.

At Kiss the Sky, it was an opportunity to interview Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke about his 42 years in office and Kiss the Sky owner Steve Warrenfeltz, an interesting music lover and small-business owner in Batavia.

Geneva lawyer Pat Crimmins, left, and former St. Charles mayor Ray Rogina started their "Just a Coupla Guys" podcasts in April. Courtesy of Dave Heun

"It's been an interesting six-plus months with the podcast," said Rogina, who last May landed St. Charles' top citizen honor, the Charlemagne Award. "But it's the perfect retirement gig for me."

After podcasts featuring 12 public officials, three celebrities (one of them being Wayne Newton of Las Vegas fame), four figures from the sports world and another eight of "local interest," the "Guys" are finding a solid on-air groove - though one that calls for plenty of work.

"I think we do have a responsibility, depending on who we are interviewing, to ask the hard questions," Crimmins said. "From the beginning, we were always going to ask the hard questions, not taking cheap shots, but always being prepared."

But mostly agree that if they ask people to take the time to listen to their podcasts, they also want to entertain.

"I have always felt I don't want to get too far ahead of myself in terms of being like a journalist," Rogina added. "But accuracy and delivery are important in this, and there is an obligation to make sure things are done right, holding to a higher standard like a journalist has, but we also want to entertain."

In that setting, Rogina acknowledges many of the listeners know who the "Guys" are. Still, he is not sure they "look at us as anything beyond providers of information and some entertaining bits."

With podcast producer Stukel providing the feedback analytics, the "Guys" know their eight podcasts during September and October had 25,037 "hits" or views online, a 24% increase over the previous two-month period. The average number of listeners per podcast is 3,129.

"And that is really good," Crimmins noted.

What happens next is hard to say, but as more sponsors hop on board, the "Guys" have to commit to more podcasts. They are fine with that. So much so that they wouldn't mind expanding their reach into the Naperville area to the east and Elburn and DeKalb to the west.

After a few doses of doing live podcasts - one at Scarecrow Fest in St. Charles, one at Rookies sports bar in St. Charles during a Bears game, and the Kiss the Sky session - the "Guys" want to do more live podcasts to increase audience exposure. Ultimately, their sights are set pretty high, regardless of when or where the podcasts unfold.

"I've said from the start that our goal is to be the best and most valued podcast in the Fox Valley and beyond, one that has value to people," Rogina said. "The sponsors have to get value for what they spent, so we are always looking for continual improvement."

The latest on Duke's

Those who enjoy the supper clubs common in Wisconsin and other parts north have been asking when the Duke's Northwoods Inn at 7 E. Main St. in St. Charles might open.

It was believed the eatery/sports bar would be open by now, but St. Charles economic development director Derek Conley said the owners are targeting early 2023 to open the doors.

"Hopefully, it could be sooner, but with supply chain stuff and some things out of their control, they are more comfortable with the early 2023 target," Conley said. "But they are working on it."

Readers have also asked what is happening with the Capriotti's Sandwich Shop at 1960 W. Main St., which recently closed.

Conley said he didn't have a clear answer to Capriotti's fate, only that he believes the owners are in the process of dividing a partnership.

"It may not be permanently closed, but I'm just not sure at this time," Conley added.

To the leaders

Geneva schools Superintendent Kent Mutchler hosted last Tuesday what would be his final community Leadership Breakfast event, which has become the district's traditional launch for American Education Week.

The Geneva Academic Foundation handed over a $30,000 check in support of the schools, and the student councils from every school in the district met with the community leaders in attendance.

They once again illustrated through explanations of their various projects that, despite some of the noise to the contrary, great things are going on in our schools.

As I've done each year at this event, I like to mention the Geneva High School String Ensemble, which performs before breakfast. Behind the direction of Krista Halvorson, violinists Sarah Juan and Alex Kellick and cellist Lina Perry set a pleasant mood with lovely music.

At the district's helm, Mutchler has been an excellent host during his 17 years (not counting two years sidetracked by COVID). He'll be leaving at the end of the school year to enjoy a period of retirement or pursue other educational leadership options.

His message to the various community leaders and the young students in the room was easy to grasp.

"Leadership is learning," Mutchler said, adding that curiosity about all things is the motivating trait that steers people toward helping others through leadership.

In stressing the need for teamwork and cooperation, he shared advice he learned early in his career: "No one person is as smart as all of us."

It's about the prairie

To learn about Illinois, you must understand prairies and their roles in the ecosystem. Hundreds of years ago, that's what Illinois was - one big prairie.

The Kane County Forest Preserve is giving us all a chance to learn more about this important part of our history with its new Tallgrass Prairie Adventure exhibit at the Creek Bend Nature Center in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve off Dean Street in St. Charles.

The preserve introduced the exhibit this week, capping off a two-year process for grants to fund the project and contracts with organizations to build and bring the exhibit here.

The tallgrass adventure explains the numerous types of grass above the ground and what goes on underneath a prairie with various forms of wildlife, worms and insects.

Admission to the nature center is free. It's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Shopping goes 'Pink'

Black Friday as a specific shopping day has lost a bit of its luster as Black Friday sales can occur anytime during the holiday season, not just the Friday after Thanksgiving.

So, acting on an initiative from the Boutique Hub, a national support organization for small shops, the Batavia MainStreet is helping promote a different connotation on the holiday shopping season. The premise is that it is much better to stress keeping things local and changing the image (or color) a bit with a "Pink Friday" on Nov. 18.

It's a "Shop Small First" message to remind residents and visitors to shop locally during the holidays, starting the Friday before Black Friday.

A list of participating Batavia businesses and a map for the event are available on Batavia MainStreet's Instagram and Facebook social media channels.

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