Barbers are known for being good listeners. Back in the 1960s, I was a barber. Back then, I cut the hair of Dr. Robert Smith, Stickney Township’s supervisor at the time, and I heard firsthand about the challenges he faced in the position. Little did I realize, one day I would walk in his shoes.
I initially served a term as a township trustee before being elected supervisor in 1973. I began my tenure with several goals: expand health and medical services while also paying off a $360,000 debt in the health district; meet the needs of all citizens, especially the young, helpless, and aged; make physical improvements wherever needed; and strengthen relationships between the township and other area governments.
Those were lofty goals. The old medical clinic was flooding, the ceilings were leaking, and toilets were backing up. Seniors had nowhere to meet. There were no programs offered to preschool children. All the services were under threat.
At the time I was elected, in addition to the debt incurred by the health district, the Township owed $12 million in bonds from street updates. The previous administration had maxed out the Township’s anticipation warrants, essentially borrowing against all future tax revenue. The Township was broke.
Shortly after being elected, I was warned: “You’ll never last. Because you owe all this money, you’ll have to close the clinics.”
Closing the clinics was out of the question.
At the same time, President Nixon introduced a Federal Revenue Sharing program and I recognized an opportunity to solve our problems. I worked with Republican Congressman Edward J. Derwinski to advocate for the Township. We received not only enough to pay off debt, but enough to build out the Township infrastructure.
Revenue sharing saved the Township, protected the medical clinics, and allowed us to build a new building. It also made me realize the importance of finding the right opportunities to provide Township citizens with their fair share of government dollars.
In 1994, I was fortunate enough to be elected your state senator, which provided the added opportunity to advocate not only for Township residents, but more broadly for local communities. I addressed state committees to ask for funds for many of the goals I had set out to achieve. How many of these goals have we met? I’m proud to say: all of them. And, we’ve done it without adding a burden on the Township taxpayers.
We remodeled and constructed the Central and North buildings in the 1980s. In the 1990s, we started offering day care services, which evolved into our current (and wildly popular) pre-K program. The senior program housed in the South Administration Building quickly outgrew the space. So, in 2001, we used a development grant from the Illinois First Program to fund the construction of a new Senior Center and expanded and remodeled it in 2015. It now also houses one of the pre-K programs. In 2011, we built a new medical building on the site of the old one. And, in 2014, we remodeled the North Clinic building. Each change and improvement along the way allowed us to better serve Township citizens.
In the coming months, I hope to share more of the history of these accomplishments and of the Township itself, both in print and online. I hope you’ll see that, over the years, one goal has been constant: To keep resident interests always first in my mind.
Louis S. Viverito,
Stickney Public Health District