Longtime Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, one of two Republicans on the board, will not seek another term; 9th District includes Edgebrook, Norwood Park
by BRIAN NADIG
Ninth District Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, first elected to the position in 1994, plans to retire in December at the end of his current term.
“I’ve been at this for a long time,” Silvestri said of his 28-year career as a commissioner. He also is a lawyer and served as mayor of Elmwood Park from 1989 to 2013.
Silvestri, who recently turned 65, said that he will be practicing law and hopes to teach political science after his term ends.
When he first ran as commissioner, Silvestri promoted himself as a “social moderate and fiscal conservative,” and he said that he has followed that ideology throughout his career.
“I opposed tax increases,” Silvestri said. “I think a government … works best in the middle, (and) in U.S. history, government is more successful when there is harmony (between the two parties).”
As a Republican on a Democrat-dominated board, Silvestri said that he has done his best to work with Democrats in an effort to make things better for the county. He said that he is proud of the ethics reform, restructuring of the county forest preserves district and county health care improvements that were implemented during his tenure.
The Ninth District consists mostly of suburban areas but does cover Edgebrook, Norwood Park, Oriole Park and Dunning on the Far Northwest Side.
Silvestri’s decision not to run again may spark a lot of candidates to fill his seat, but the district’s boundaries make it a somewhat safe seat for Republicans — even in the highly democratic Cook County, according to some political observers.
One of those running for Silvestri’s seat is Northwest Side GOP Club president Matthew Podgorski. “I’m a common-sense conservative,” he said.
“This is a seat that steers how tax money is going to be spent in Cook County,” Podgorski said, adding that as a commissioner he would use his business and financial background to reach across the aisle and bring about a consensus on important matters.
Podgorski said that so far he has raised $96,000 in campaign funds and secured endorsements from six of the eight Republican committeepersons whose ward and township boundaries cover nearly all of the district.
During his tenure some of the more high-profile, local issues which Silvestri dealt with have been controlled burns in the forest preserves and the fate of the Read-Dunning land.
In the 1990s, a forest preserve burn, which is a land management practice designed to eliminate invasive species, reportedly surprised residents in the Edgebrook area, leading to the fire department coming out. The controversy led to a countywide moratorium on controlled burns that was later lifted, although it stayed in place for several more years along the North Branch of the Chicago River.
The county established new procedures for notifying the public of a scheduled burn.
Silvestri also recalled working with aldermen and state officials on plans for the Read-Dunning land near Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue. There were discussions on whether the county should take over management of the land but that never materialized, he said.
Silvestri said that when difficult issues come up, he tries to work through them the best he can.
And how does he know when an issue is resolved? “Nobody calls me,” he said.