Michael R. Zalewski
b. July 26, 1956
Chicago, 23rd Ward Alderman (1995-)
Chicago, 23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman (2005-)
Michael Zalewski, protege of former Congressman William Lipinski, became alderman in 1995 when he was slated by Lipinski over sitting Alderman James Laski after Laski had crossed Lipinski one too many times. Laski ran for and won Chicago City Clerk instead, but was later convicted as part of the federal Hired Truck Investigation.
Zalewski maintains a lobbying and political consulting business on the side and has been a loyal Lipinski soldier. His loyalty was tested in 2004 when Lipinski announced his retirement from Congress and plans to hand his seat to his son, Daniel Lipinski. At the time, Daniel was living in Knoxville and teaching political science at the University of Tennessee; he had not done any political work for his father since his childhood. While political observers were shocked at Lipinski's brazen push, 23rd Warders were more surprised that loyalist Zalewski–and Lipinski chief of staff Jerry Hurkes–were passed over for the seat. As a not- insignificant consolation prize, William Lipinski passed the 23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman spot to Zalewski in 2005.
Prior to election, Zalewski served as deputy commissioner for the Department of Streets and Sanitation under Mayor Richard M. Daley. Zalewski, whose ward’s prime economic driver is Midway Airport, currently chairs the Aviation Committee. He served as President Pro Tempore under Mayor Daley in 2009. Backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s organization, Zalewski has rarely had a tough re-election contest. He won 71 percent of the vote in 2007, 53 percent of the vote in 2011, and 67 percent in 2015.
His mostly residential ward was redistricted to be mostly Latino and now barely resembles the one-time Lithuanian and Polish stronghold. His son, Michael J. Zalewski represents the 21st District in the Illinois House of Representatives. Prior to this past election cycle, Zalewski was the only alderman of Polish descent on City Council. He’s now joined by Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10) and Raymond Lopez (15), who is part Polish.
Current Chicago City Council Committees:
- Committee on Aviation, Chairman
- Committee on Budget and Government Operations
- Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics
- Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development
- Committee on Finance
- Committee on Health and Environmental Protection
- Committee on Workforce Development and Audit
Important Political Events
- 1995, Elected 23rd Ward Alderman, replacing James Laski
- 2005, Passed over for 3rd District Congressman slating for Daniel Lipinski
- 2005, Appointed 23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman by Ward precinct captains, replacing William Lipinski
- 2008, Elected 23rd Ward Democratic Committeeman
- 2008, Appointed son Michael J. Zalewski to State Representative