‘Political Rookie' Goes From Jewel Clerk to County Board

23-year-old says no one more surprised than he

A 23-year-old Aurora man was as surprised as anyone when he was elected as one of three Democrats to the all-Republican DuPage County Board on Tuesday.

Tony Michelassi, a grocery store photo clerk, was one of 10 Democratic candidates for the spot and, as the Daily Herald reported Thursday, he was "the longest of long shots."

"Honestly, I hoped that I would perform admirably and pull a decent third place finish and get my name out there for a race in the future," Michelassi said.

But county Democratic leaders saw something in Michelassi.

"If you ever listen to Tony Michelassi speak, he's very intelligent and a quick learner," said DuPage County Democratic Party Chairman Bob Peickert. "He said, 'Put me in there, I can do the job.' When someone like Tony comes and says they want to run, the age thing certainly causes us to think about whether he'll be able to compete, and he's shown us he could."

On Thursday morning, a Chicago reporter approached the young board member's home in hopes of scoring an interview.  The house was dark and it appeared that no one was home.  Then the door opened and a sleepy-headed Michelassi appeared, apologizing for the delay and explaining that he was "sleeping in."

Standing in the doorway in bare feet, jeans and a T-shirt, Michelassi said he considers himself a "candidate of the people."

As a political science major in college, it occured to him that he might try running for office some day, but he never thought he'd be elected the first time out.

"Politically, I’m a rookie," he says of himself on his Web site.

The young board member said he plans on taking only a $36,000 salary, perhaps letting his constituents choose to which charities he'll give the $20,000 balance of his county salary.

Michelassi is scheduled to work the photo counter at Jewel Thursday afternoon, but said he's going to try to get the day off to attend his first budget meeting.  The Daily Herald reported Thursday that, in fact, Michelassi intends to quit his Jewel job to focus on his new gig.


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