Todd Stroger angling to return to politics, interested in William Beaver's seat

March 26, 2013 3:34:29 PM PDT
Former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger says he's ready to get back in the political ring.

Following the tax fraud conviction of Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, Democratic committeemen must appoint someone to serve the remainder of Beavers' term.

Stroger, 50, is easily the most recognizable name among those interested in representing Cook County's Fourth District on Chicago's South Side.

"You have to have someone with a strong voice to speak out for people or they're not going to get their fair shake," Stroger said.

Stroger, now an insurance salesman, says if he returned to the board as a commissioner, he'd be more effective than during his one-term there as president.

"Matter of fact, you can probably get some more things done without the scrutiny of everyone questioning every decision you make," Stroger said.

He won the presidency in 2006 after party leaders appointed him to run in place of his ill father. He lost the office in 2010 to current president Toni Preckwinkle.

While in office he championed the county's one-percent sales tax increase which Preckwinkle appealed.

"There's going to be rocks thrown but you just have to do the job that you think is right and damn the torpedoes, you gotta keep going," Stroger said.

21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins, Jr. will lead the Democratic Party Selection Committee that will choose among nearly a dozen people who've already expressed an interest in the 4th District seat.

Brookins grew up with and served with Stroger on the City Council.

"If I hear from him, I'll take the bid seriously," Brookins said. "I've always been a supporter of Todd and that will be a particularly difficult situation to navigate through in determining who we ultimately pick."

Stroger's income is supplemented by a $980-a-month county pension which he will lose if he wins the board appointment.

"No, I wouldn't get a pension from anyone if I had an office," Stroger said.

His pension is from his work for the county in the late 1980s, he said.

He insisted that he is not, as some have reported, paid three-quarters of his presidential salary which was around $170,000 a year.

Stroger says it's complicated but that he won't qualify for his entire pension amount, a combination of city, state and county, until he reaches age 55.

In 2012 Eugene Mullins, Stroger's longtime friend and top aide during his term as president, was indicted in a kickback scheme involving county contracts.

Stroger acknowledged he's a possible defense witness in the case but says he has no involvement in the alleged crimes.

"Not only do I have nothing to do with the case, the federal government hasn't even asked me about it at all," he said.