As America entered the Henry Ford age of industry, so too did the concept of the 40-hour work week and with it, the separation of “work life” and “home life.” For many Americans, the distinction between the two made the twentieth-century professional’s personal life a safe respite from the daily expectations forged behind the monolithic walls of factories and high-rise office buildings. Today, social media’s influence on culture, lifestyle, business, and branding has transformed those dynamics. Careers are made (and broken) by taking personal highlights and professional ambitions, throwing the two in a marketing blender, and presenting them to the world. The resulting online identity for many has forever transformed the traditional hallmarks of a professional life. But while many call it branding – others live it.
For classmates who grew up with Shane Egan at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in his hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY, it was almost as if he were created for the purpose of leading a life of consummate professionalism. Described as something of a “16 going on 36” type of individual, Shane was the kind of young person who would give his friend group a different perspective and mediate petty squabbles.
Egan’s “old-soul” mentality would carry him into a distinguished career in law where he gained extensive experience with all aspects of Medicaid eligibility rules. He utilized this experience to assist clients with advanced planning, Medicaid applications, and fair hearings. Egan’s personal compulsion to serve the community led him to serve as attorney for the Town of Clinton, and as special counsel to several other municipalities, handling tax certiorari matters for both municipalities and petitioners.
After his time working as inside counsel for the New York Power Authority (NYPA), handling matters associated with the issuance of tax-exempt debt, administrative law proceedings, and land use planning, the lifelong Dutchess County resident joined the firm Cappillino Rothschild & Egan LLP in 2011 and has recently declared his candidacy for the Fourth Ward seat on the Poughkeepsie Common Council. Mr. Egan sat down with Main Street to discuss his time in Dutchess County, his campaign for Common Council, his fervor for community leadership and how he manages to balance his natural gift for public service with raising his four young daughters.
How has your time in Poughkeepsie informed your decisions to get involved with both city government as well as the non-profit community organizations like Dutchess Outreach?
I’ve always felt it was important to be engaged and civic-minded. While attending Lourdes, I very much enjoyed the government and economic classes, eventually becoming class president. Public policy was always something I was interested in. I can remember regularly watching C-SPAN before I even graduated Junior High, making me something of a unique teenager I suppose. After graduating from Siena College I began interning at law firms in 2007, which was a springboard for my entry into the world of litigation.
I was also fortunate to have the former mayor of the city appoint me to serve as one of the commissioners on the City of Poughkeepsie’s Landmark and Historic Preservation Commission where I helped protect the city’s rich historic landscape.
Dutchess Outreach is such an important organization both for Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County as a whole. The organization offers help to people in need and I am proud to serve on its board of directors. I would encourage your readers to visit their website to learn more and get involved or donate.
I also enjoy teaching at Dutchess Community College where I have taught business law since 2014. Poughkeepsie is where I grew up, my roots are here. The city is still one of the most walkable in the county and I enjoy jogging every morning and saying hi to my neighbors. For me, the character of Poughkeepsie’s community reinforces the notion that we all need to do our own small part to make our community a better place and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to do mine.
Was there a particular motivation that compelled you to pursue a career in law? Has your interest in law evolved over time?
I knew I wanted to go to law school at a very young age. Certainly by the time I was in high school. I was always interested in politics and public policy. I saw a career in law as a way to help people and small businesses.
Today, I enjoy helping elderly clients safeguard their assets and couples purchase their first home. My firm, Cappillino Rothschild & Egan LLP, practices in a number of areas so I’m always facing new challenges which keeps things fresh and interesting. We pride ourselves on having long-term relationships with our clients, which I enjoy. It’s one of the great things about practicing in a small Dutchess County firm. I also enjoy working on both sides of Dutchess County since we have offices in both Pawling and Poughkeepsie. People don’t necessarily see the impacts government has on their daily lives or how the local laws affect people on an individual level.
How do you think your career in law will assist in being a member of the city’s legislative body?
Well I’m not on the City Council yet. The election is this November. I’m running to represent the Fourth Ward, which is on the city’s south side. I think an understanding of the legal system will aid me on the council because as a lawyer in private practice my job is to assist clients navigate an increasingly complex system. I have seen the adverse impact of ill-conceived laws on people’s lives and businesses. I think that knowledge and understanding will make me a better legislator.
Campaigning has been fun thus far, knocking on doors does take commitment, but these are the same streets and doors I have walked past all of my life so there is a certain level of comfort as well. Ultimately, as important as many of the residents’ concerns are, they remain uncomplicated. The cost of living is currently unsustainable, and taxes have gone up between 20 and 30 thousand dollars in the last decade. While assessors have raised assessments and taxes rise, the city’s public parks have not changed since I was a kid, they need new equipment as much as the entire city itself needs new infrastructure.
With so much community involvement, how do you balance your time as an attorney and a local leader with being a father of four young girls?
It’s a challenge but I am lucky to have tons of family support. My wife Katherine is the best. She’s always encouraged me to pursue my goals. We tell ourselves that there’s always enough hours in the day and to keep things in perspective. My thought is a busy person gets things done. We try to teach our children the importance of civic engagement.
How have you seen the City of Poughkeepsie evolve and change over the years, where do you see the future of the City’s culture and infrastructure heading?
The city has certainly changed a lot. Progress has been made in some areas but more work needs to be done particularly with regard to the city’s waterfront and Main Street corridor. The City Council’s relationship needs to improve, getting back to basics like creating an affordable community to live in shouldn’t be about party politics at a local level. Any conflict between the Mayor and City Council is ultimately not good for the people of the city. Putting the people’s interest first is not complicated.
Sanitation fees have also gone up and public safety remains at the forefront of everyone’s mind and needs to be improved. I would like to see the city’s roads and public parks ungraded. Small steps like these can go a long way towards improving residences’ quality of life.
At the same time we have to be mindful to hold the line on taxes because many people – especially those on fixed incomes – simply cannot afford to live here. So there are many challenges facing the city, but I think a solid dose of common sense and good judgment will go a long way and I want to show my girls it is still possible in modern government, especially on the local level.