Village trustees in McCook replaced embattled former Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski on Wednesday with one of Tobolski’s key political allies.
It was another lesson in The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same, especially in Cook County politics.
Terrance “Terry” Carr, the son of a former Willow Springs mayor and the grandson of a former Cook County commissioner from Cicero, was chosen to serve as McCook’s acting mayor on a unanimous vote and immediately sworn in.
Carr, 38, then exchanged elbow bumps instead of handshakes with his fellow trustees in a nod to the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic.
Carr’s father, also named Terry, was among a small group of spectators watching from specially designated seats in the village board meeting room, each of them arranged to be at least six feet apart to maintain proper social distancing.
Keeping six feet apart would not normally seem a tough task in a town of just 224 residents, but McCook’s tiny population belies its much larger role as a center of commerce and industry in the southwest suburbs — and the corresponding political importance of who runs the government.
For that reason, it was only to be expected that the job of mayor is kept in the family, so to speak.
Carr’s father remains a PACE board member and village trustee in nearby Willow Springs, where he served as mayor for many years.
Both the father and grandfather, former Cook County Commissioner Allan Carr, played instrumental roles in helping elect Tobolski as county commissioner to replace Republican Anthony Peraica in 2010.
Although the Carrs are Republicans and Tobolski a Democrat, there was bad blood with Peraica because he had ousted Allan Carr from the commissioner post eight years earlier.
Tobolski, as you will recall, resigned that County Board seat and as McCook’s mayor in early March amid a federal investigation that is still expected to result in charges brought against him, once the world returns to normal after the current health crisis.
Tobolski dropped off his McCook village gear and cleaned out his desk Tuesday just before his resignation took effect, the new mayor said.
The younger Carr came to McCook after his family bought and remodeled a local restaurant on Joliet Road (Historic U.S. Route 66) in 2011 and added it to the long successful Steak-N-Egger chain started by his grandfather.
The new mayor, who previously was a Stone Park police officer, said he now oversees the restaurant chain, which includes seven locations in the Chicago area, and “yes, the coronavirus is killing us,” he told me. His voting address is a small house located at the rear of the restaurant property.
Tobolski first appointed the future mayor to a position on McCook’s library board, then later as village trustee in 2016 after the death of another board member.
Funny story related to Terry Carr serving on the library board: Not long after the Carrs bought the restaurant site in McCook, they got into a dispute with the owners of the parking lot next door, who tried to block them from using it. The previous restaurant operators had rented the parking lot.
To solve the problem, Tobolski had the village go to court to acquire the parking lot land through condemnation, ostensibly for use by the public library located just around the corner.
Village residents say the lot continues to serve mainly as a parking lot for Carr’s restaurant. Carr denies he even really needs the parking lot for his business.
Carr sat and talked with me for 15 minutes after the meeting, and I found him to be an affable sort, as you might expect from a successful restaurant operator.
He explained he’s not a junior, although he says everyone has always called him that. He’s Terrance Matthew. His dad is Terrance Michael.
He sidestepped questions about whether McCook needs reform, although he promised to take a harder look at The MAX, the sprawling, publicly owned sports complex that was a Tobolski hallmark. Terry Carr said he has “no clue” why Tobolski is in trouble.
“Yes, me and Jeff were friends. We got along,” Carr said, but pointed to a newly balanced village budget as one indicator of a difference in leadership.
I asked Carr if he learned everything he knows about politics from his dad, and he reminded me not to overlook his grandfather.
Allan Carr, now 89 and living in Bradenton, Florida, would have been in attendance Wednesday if not for coronavirus concerns, his grandson said.
Although a Republican, Allan Carr was known as a reliable vote for Cook County Board President John Stroger and the Democrats, for which he was rewarded with the usual political favors.
Maybe Terry Carr will be the guy who cleans up McCook. I have doubts.