Here is the text of a letter from Cook County Board President John Stroger announcing his retirement from his post and his commission seat effective July 31:
To my colleagues, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County Government employees and the citizens of Cook County:
Over the past three months, I have been reflecting upon the things that I considered prior to making my decision to run for re-election as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and the Forest Preserve District. Many factors were attributable to my decision to run — at the core was my continued desire to serve the residents of this great county by continuing to work as hard as possible, as I have done for the past 12 years as President. I have made every attempt to try to make peoples' lives better. I have worked tirelessly to ensure fairness and equal access to county government services for all people as reflected in my record. I thought that running for President of the County Board for the fourth time was very important, not just to hold a title, or because I am the first African-American to be elected as President of the Board. None of those things was particularly important to me. I decided to run for the fourth time because of the challenges that I believe county government continues to face and will face in the coming years. I believed that I had the fortitude, will power and the courage to address the issues in the best interest of the residents of Cook County. I wanted to be in a position to continue the dedicated work that we started and I knew that it would require a team that is committed to maintaining and expanding the services and programs that we have built over the years. I felt it is important to continue to head in these initiatives. That is what drove my decision to ask the residents of Cook County to vote for me one more time. I feel it is important to show the difference between myself and others who were interested in the position.
Now, I am asking that you read my statement carefully. This is probably one of the most difficult periods in my life. I fought for 50 years to improve the quality of life for everyone in our city, county, state and country. I worked hard to make single-member districts a reality so that Commissioners would be more accountable to their constituents ... and so that constituents would have a voice on the board. I've served in capacities in which I had a voice in bringing health care services to poor and indigent people. I've served on panels that addressed issues of poverty and crime — always advocating for those who might not otherwise have a voice themselves. I want to be remembered for my actions, not my words. These are the things that I fought for on a daily basis. There is no doubt that over the past three months, people have speculated about the decision that I have made which will be shared with you today. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues and the employees of Cook County government for being patient as I continue on my journey to wellness. You and the residents of Cook County have shown me great support while I am going through this most difficult time. Please note that these are things that I have thought about for the past three months as I have faced the challenges resulting from my unexpected illness. At this time, the challenges that I face have made me look deep within my soul and realize that as a fighter, I will always fight for what I believe in. I will take the necessary steps to continue to give of myself in an effort to bring quality services and programs to our communities. It is important to the community that we continue to build upon these services. These thoughts added to my rehabilitation process. They gave me the initiative, drive, and courage to fight; to continue on a day-to-day basis to improve so that one day I could come back and be as vibrant and as energetic as I was when I first came into office in 1970 as a commissioner. Over the past three months, there wasn't a day that went by that I did not work hard to return to my post to continue to lead and deliver for the people of Cook County. I set a goal for myself as I persevered through my treatment and my rehabilitation efforts. I determined that if I had not achieved certain thresholds within a certain time period, I would do what I have always done, make the tough decision. However, going forward, the prescription that I need for my recovery is to know that I can continue to be a force in bringing the parties together in collaboration to provide the government services to those in need. To my distinguished colleagues, members of the county board, community leaders, friends and family, as well as the staff of dedicated county employees who have worked so hard to service the people of our county, I commend and thank you. You are the people that give me the strength, courage, and the fight to prepare myself because you enable me to continue to be an advocate for the people of Cook County. Today, I would like to give a message to you all — my fellow colleagues, the employees of Cook County and the five million citizens that we all serve. The County is a place that under my stewardship, has taken great strides to better serve the people. I want to make it very clear to all of you that have expressed your affection, your interest and most importantly, your support of my rehabilitation process and my return to the Presidency of the County Board that I thank you. Thank you for your words of encouragement. They have enabled me to fight this battle — and please note this is a battle that I am going to win.
Never before have I had a battle that has placed as many obstacles before me. I can tell you that there have been challenges. But I can also say to you that those challenges have been met not just by me, but have been met with many of you because you have provided the foundation upon which I have stood. That foundation has been solid. It has enabled me to accept the fact that I have to reach within myself and garner the strength and courage to fight on; to continue the fight to make sure that I one day will be in the position to be an advocate. Advocating to maintain the kind of services and programs that are necessary for the people, while more importantly making sure that everyone understands what county government should deliver to the people of Cook County.
It is because of my love, commitment and dedication to the best that I made the decision that I share with you today. It is important to me that Cook County, as one of the best government systems in this country, be able to deliver in a manner that the citizens have become accustomed to and deserve. I have given great consideration to the decisions that I have made.
I must first ask my colleagues to consider to continue to make Cook County the type of place in which they would want their children to live and to enable those less fortunate to receive services in the area of health care and public safety. I further ask them to join me in making this a continued mandate. The second request is to the people of Cook County. Continue to voice your opinions and hold us accountable — we must hear your concerns, pleasures and displeasures. You must continue to be a part of the political process. Collectively, we must ensure that county government delivers timely, appropriate services in a cost effective manner.
Now, I share with you my decision about my future. This is a personal decision that is being made because of my current physical limitations. I have the aptitude and mental abilities to make the sound decisions that I have made all of my life with the ability to serve as President of the Cook County Board and bring clear direction to the governmental process. This clear direction would enable me to bring to the county what the people elected my colleagues and I to do. Over the past 30 years as commissioner and 12 as President, I heard the people of this county and I made every attempt to deliver. While I don't profess to have all of the answers, I do have the love, commitment, integrity, honesty and most of all the on-going willingness to take a position regardless of the opposition. I have and will continue to stand for what I believe in.
To my colleagues, the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the hard working employees of Cook County Government, and to all the people of Cook County, I must inform you that effective July 1, 2006, I hereby tender my letter of resignation as the nominee for President of the Cook County Board. As of July 31, 2006, I will retire as the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and the Forest Preserve District and as Commissioner of the 4th District of Cook County.
On a daily basis, I will, with all of my heart and soul, continue to work to improve my physical ability so that I can continue to be an advocate and involved in making Cook County a better place for all. I have no doubt that with a little more time; I will be able to accomplish this. I thank you for your trust in me and for giving me the opportunity to serve you.
Thank you and God Bless you.
John H. Stroger, Jr.
Blognotes: The letter was NOT signed.