SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois Senate President John Cullerton announced Thursday night that he will be retiring in January.
Cullerton was chosen as Senate President 11 years ago, and in an announcement, he outlined the accomplishments over those years.
“I came to the job with great optimism and enthusiasm, ready to tackle the challenges confronting Illinois, and with great expectations for moving forward to solve some of the crises our state faced,” Cullerton wrote. “I’ve had the pleasure to work with a body of Senate members who were equally resolute in moving Illinois forward and making the changes necessary to grow our economy and build a better future for our children and our communities.”
Cullerton noted that the accomplishments include two capital bills, marriage equality, abolition of the death penalty, school funding reform, pension reform, and immigration reform.
“During a time when our efforts were challenged on many fronts, we found ways to reach across the aisle, and through compromise we worked together to get our job done,” Cullerton wrote. “One of the highlights of my career was working with Republican Leader Christine Radogno to try to bring to an end the state budget impasse.”
Cullerton said he had promised his wife, Pam, that he would retire after 39 years of duty, when he turned 70, or when the state elected a Democratic governor.
Cullerton is now 71 and has 41 years of service in the state Legislature, and thus, he wrote, “I’m finally going to live up to my promise to retire.” He has also been married 40 years, but he wrote that given how much time he spent in Springfield, it didn’t seem like it.
“In counting our years of marriage, Pam deducts for the days I spend in Springfield, so she will claim we’ve only been married 30 years,” he wrote. “Now all that will come to an end and she will have to give due credit to each day together.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker released a statement praising Cullerton and his many efforts in state government.
“In the past decade as Senate President, John Cullerton has been a passionate advocate for improving Illinois — whether it was his focus on ending the scourge of youth smoking, dedication to fully funding education or efforts to advance critically needed infrastructure throughout the state,” Pritzker said in the statement. “Over the years, I came to know John as my state senator, and this past year I have truly appreciated his work to advance our common agenda to stand with working families. I wish him all the best in the years to come, and I know that Pam and his children will be glad to start their next chapter as a family.”
Cullerton comes from a powerful Chicago political family that goes back in elected office to the time of the Great Chicago Fire. Ed Cullerton was elected a Chicago alderman in 1871 and a state senator the following year. Cullerton Street – running east-west from the South Loop and through Pilsen, Little Village, and Lawndale – is named for Ed Cullerton, who had lived on the street back when it was known as 20th Street.
Ed Cullerton’s nephew, Parky Cullerton, served as 38th Ward alderman and Cook County assessor. Parky Cullerton’s brother, Willie, also served as 38th Ward alderman, as did Willie’s son, Thomas, and grandson, Tim, DNAinfo recalled. Tim and John Cullerton are cousins.
Another cousin of Senate President Cullerton’s, Illinois state Sen. Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park), was indicted on charges that he embezzled more than $250,000 in salary and benefits from a local Teamsters office, even though he did little or no work for the labor union.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, who had served as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has also had his home and office raided by the FBI.
A representative for Senate President Cullerton told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov that his retirement is not related to the investigation.