Kadner: Candidate puts Streit on notice in Oak Lawn
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org October 1, 2013 10:38PM
Pat McGowan | Supplied photo
Updated: November 3, 2013 6:18AM
Patrick McGowan may have set some sort of record by announcing his candidacy for Oak Lawn trustee 18 months before the village election.
McGowan, 36, a sales executive for what he described as a “worldwide materials firm,” is running for 3rd District trustee, a seat held uninterrupted by Bob Streit since 1991.
Streit has been a lightning rod for controversy since coming to the board, often shifting alliances, turning old political allies into enemies in the process.
In an exchange of emails, I asked McGowan why he announced his candidacy on Friday.
“Two reasons, primarily,” he responded. “Because I want the residents of the 3rd District to know that I am serious about the job and because so many of us in the district feel ignored by the current trustee, except for when he has his campaign fundraisers.”
Those sound like reasons to run but really don’t seem to justify an election announcement when no one is thinking about the April 2015 election.
Longtime political observers in Oak Lawn told me they had not heard of McGowan before but immediately speculated that he was being supported by Tom Phelan, a former trustee who once was one of those Streit allies I mentioned but who eventually became his bitterest public critic.
So I asked McGowan if he was allied with Phelan, Mayor Sandra Bury or anyone else in office. In his announcement, McGowan described himself as an independent.
“I am not friends with or politically affiliated with anyone currently in office in Oak Lawn or elsewhere,” McGowan stated. “Prior to announcing, I did contact several board members to tell them I was considering running, including Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th), Mayor Bury and (village) Clerk Jane Quinlan.
“I also contacted Trustee Mike Carberry (6th) because I have a lot of friends and family in the 6th District (I grew up there), and Trustee Carberry told me to talk to Tom Phelan, too, to get some additional insights into the prior happenings on the board. All of the people I spoke to were helpful and encouraging, and prior to contacting all of them I had never met or spoken to any of them.”
I also asked McGowan via email (he was out of town on business at the time), what, specifically, he hoped to accomplish, if elected, that isn’t being done now.
“The No. 1 complaint and concern I have about the current leadership in the 3rd District is we don’t have any,” McGowan replied.
“Trustee Streit spends about 100 percent of his time on politics — fighting with other board members, creating political blocs, switching political sides, flip-flopping on important issues and striking secret deals that benefit his agenda or his friends,” McGowan continued. “There are no district meetings or newsletters or meet-the-trustee events. All we get are his invitations to his fundraisers.”
I have to strongly disagree with McGowan on something in that statement. I would guess that Streit spends about 90 percent of his time on politics, not 100 percent.
“I want to change ALL (emphasis is McGowan’s) that by being more involved in the lives and problems of the 3rd District residents, by having district meetings, by starting a district newsletter and by relying on social media like Twitter and Facebook to put what’s happening in Oak Lawn quickly and directly into the hands of our residents,” McGowan said.
I noted that Oak Lawn politics have become a dirty, nasty business with Streit often in the middle of such controversies. I wondered if McGowan was prepared for that and, frankly, why he would want to subject himself to such abuse.
“This is another reason we need to change in the 3rd District, and yes, many, many people told me the same thing, which is really sad and a major reason why people are so turned off by politics in our village, state and country,” McGowan wrote. “But the worst thing we can do is ignore it or act like we can’t do anything about it.
“We allowed people like Trustee Streit to amass too much power. So it’s up to us to change that when things go bad, as they have in the 3rd District.”
But why should people vote for an unknown over Streit, the longest-serving member of the village board?
“Because I have no personal or political agenda,” he said. “I will work to bring honor and respect back to the office of 3rd District trustee. And I think I will be successful because I have no political history and no political loyalties and no political agenda.
“I don’t owe anyone any favors. My career success won’t depend on how I vote or who I support or oppose on an issue or who I try to help get a contract.
“We are at a critical time in our country’s government, and most problems start at the local level and need to be solved at the local level.”
Because McGowan was out of town on business when I contacted him, I wondered if he would be able to attend all the village board meetings and meet the needs of his constituents if elected.
“As a regional manager, I have control over my schedule and work from home more often than not, which actually provides me with a great deal of flexibility and I believe will make me MORE effective as a trustee,” McGowan wrote in response.
McGowan is a graduate of Marist High School and Lewis University. His wife, Kerrie Corley McGowan, like her husband, grew up in Oak Lawn. They have no children.
In a final question, I asked McGowan for specific issues he would champion if elected.
“The village’s unfunded pension and medical benefit liabilities are the No. 1 concern I have and dwarf almost all others,” he stated.
Streit has not announced if he will seek re-election, not surprising in light of the election being 18 months off. At present, he and the mayor are political opponents.
Streit has been in that position before and somehow managed to persuade the previous mayor, Dave Heilmann, that he wasn’t such a bad guy.
The guy is a survivor.