Cullertons giving up City Council seat after 111 years

Written By Fran Spielman Posted: 07/16/2014, 07:40pm

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The job of 38th Ward alderman is called the “Cullerton seat” because a Cullerton has served in the Chicago City Council for 111 of the last 143 years. But they’ll have to find a new nickname.

Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) has told associates he will not run for re-election, nor will the seat he vacates be filled by a member of his powerful political family.

That clears the way for Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), a victim of the ward re-map, to run for the job after a buying a house in the new 38th Ward.

“I will make that announcement on Aug. 5,” said Sposato, whose ward is now majority Hispanic. “I still have five options. Some options outweigh other options.”

Sposato said he’s not at all surprised that Cullerton would decide that his first term would be his last.

“I know what people close to him have told me. He was just doing it for one time,” Sposato said.

Cullerton could not be reached for comment on his decision to retire from politics.

He’s a former first deputy buildings commissioner whose powerful political family has represented one ward or another almost continuously since shortly before the Chicago Fire of 1871. His father was the longtime aldermen. His sister is the ward’s Democratic committeeman. 

Cullerton is a descendant of Edward Cullerton, one of Chicago’s original settlers. The family’s political fortunes stretch back to 1871, when saloon keeper Edward “Foxy” Cullerton was elected to the City Council.

He died in office in 1920, setting a record for aldermanic tenure that stands to this day.  Cullerton Street is named for him.

Family members currently holding office include state Senate President John Cullerton and state Sen. Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park).

    Four years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley held an open casting call for 38th Ward aldermen, only to appoint yet another Cullerton.

“It had nothing to do with their names. I could close my eyes, have ‘em walk in and, after presentations, I would select him,” Daley said at the time of Cullerton.

Asked why he picked another Cullerton, Daley said, “Tim has been an excellent public employee. He’s been here in the [Building] Department, made many changes … He’s lived in the community. He could have moved out. … He decided to stay. His children stayed. His grandchildren. He’s committed to the city of Chicago. So, I’m very proud” of the appointment.

Cullerton pledged to focus on jobs, public safety and education and has done just that as a no-nonsense alderman from a political family who, surprisingly, doesn’t relish the politics of the job.

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