Honoring Tinley Mayor Ed Zabrocki

Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki retired recently ending a political career that spanned nearly 40 years. He was an honest, tough and smart mayor who did everything he could to make his community one of the best in Southwest Suburban Chicagoland, a region often ignored, vilified and trashed by the downtown Chicago News media. TV didn’t celebrate Zabrocki the way they celebrated Naperville’s mayor Pradel, for no other reason except class discrimination

By Ray Hanania

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Ed Zabrocki was first elected as a Tinley Park trustee in 1979, right about the time that I bought my first home there in Brementown Estates.

It didn’t take him long to become mayor, in 1981.

Tinley Park was a blossoming suburban community “through the forrest preserve” back then. Today’s it’s one of the region’s best, right there next to Orland Park where I moved a few years later.

On Thursday, I attended the salute to Zabrocki as he ended his career in public service surrounded by his friends, colleagues and many of the people who were inspired to volunteer by him to make Tinley Park a better place.

More than 300 people filled the banquet room at the Odyssey Country club right behind the old Tweeter Center, which is now called The First Midwest Bank Amphitheater.

Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki at his retirement celebration June 2015

Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki at his retirement celebration June 2015

Tinley Trustee Dave Seaman, who was named to take Zabrocki’s place, was the emcee. Years ago when I met Seamans he was shy and wasn’t much of a speaker. But on Thursday, he was on point. Seamans was followed by Clerk Patrick Rea, who is as glib today as he was when we first tussled over issues years ago. Also attending were dozens of mayors and politicians including Orland Park’s Dan McLaughlin, and State Senator Michael Hastings.

When it was Zabrocki’s turn to speak, he was overwhelmed and could barely get his words out through his tears.

With him were his kids, his wife Emily, and his granddaughter Faye, who is wheelchair bound but inspired the crowd when she offered her own words of love for her grandfather.

I can’t imagine Zabrocki without thinking about politics.

One of my favorite columns that I wrote was about Zabrocki resigning from the Illinois Legislature after citing Springfield’s molasses culture of conflict and slowness to act.

Zabrocki, who in recent years was called “coach” by friends, was elected to the 37th House District in 1994, and retained his post as Tinley Park mayor. He surprised everyone when he announced that he was resign the post less than a year later.

Zabrocki never really explained the precise reason why he resigned, but I recall that the issue was that he was still serving as mayor and also as a legislator. In a Democratic-controlled state, Zabrocki’s real crime was that he was a Republican.

State Senator Michael Hastings honors retiring Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki

State Senator Michael Hastings honors retiring Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki

The column I wrote compared him to Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the story of a great young man who goes to Congress believing he can make a difference, only to discover the Congress is corrupt and dysfunctional when it comes to serving the people.

Zabrocki does not stutter like Stewart, despite his loss of words Thursday, there was no doubt in mind that he was cut from the same cloth, wanting to do good but discouraged by the hurdles of the Springfield’s molasses.

While he may not have conquered Springfield, Tinley Park really owes its greatness today to Zabrocki’s hard work.

Zabrocki started working as a counselor at Brother Rice High school in 1965 and retired in 2005.

I couldn’t stay long to chat much that night with Zabrocki, who worked 40 years as a counselor at Brother Rice, because I had promised my son, Aaron, that I would take him that same night to the premiere of “Jurassic World.”

Then it hit me. I watched a blockbuster film after spending time with a blockbuster politician of Jurassic stature.

You are one hell of a public servant, Ed “Jefferson Smith” Zabrocki.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at [email protected])

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Blogger, Columnist at Illinois News Network Online
Ray Hanania is senior blogger for the Illinois News Network news site. He is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (From Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). And, Hanania is a stubborn and loud critic of the biased mainstream American news media.

Hanania Chicago political beats and Chicago City Hall at the Daily Southtown Newspapers (1976-1985) and the Chicago Sun-Times (1985-1992). He published the The Villager Community Newspapers covering 12 Southwest suburban regions (1993-1997). Hanania also hosted live political news radio talkshows on WLS AM (1980 - 1991), and also on WBBM FM, WLUP FM, WSBC AM in Chicago, and WNZK AM in Detroit.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. He currently is syndicated through Creators Syndicate. He has written for the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star of Lebanon, the News of the World in London, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, The Saudi Gazette, the Arab News in Jeddah, and Aramco Magazine.

Hanania's Chicagoland columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald, the Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News and the Palos Reporter newspapers.

He is President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

His personal website is www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at: [email protected]
Ray Hanania