Timothy Cullerton Retirement Ends Family's 38th Ward Dominance

The departing alderman prepares to relinquish his post to an outsider

It's the end of an era.

After a reign stretching back decades, the Cullerton clan -- one of Chicago's oldest and most powerful political families -- has loosened its grip on the 38th Ward. On Wednesday, Ald. Timothy Cullerton announced he wouldn't run for re-election next year, thereby paving the way for new blood to take over the Northwest Side zone.

"At the end of this term, I'm going to be 66, and it's time to spend some time with the grandkids and all that," Cullerton tells the Trib. "I don’t know if I want to be alderman when I’m 70 years old at the end of a second term."

Cullerton's looming retirement will mark the first time in years that a member of his storied family won't be in charge of the 38th Ward -- so far, no relative has stepped up to keep the tradition going. The ex-deputy city buildings commissioner became alderman in 2011, replacing brother-in-law Thomas Allen, who ended an 18-year tenure for a new gig as a Cook County judge. Prior to Allen, Thomas Cullerton -- Timothy's father -- served in the post for 20 years until his 1993 death.

The Cullertons have been involved in Chicago politics almost consistently since the the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the year saloon keeper Edward "Foxy Ed" Cullerton was elected to City Council.

Foxy Ed descendants in Illinois politics include Timothy Cullerton's cousins, Senate President John Cullerton and Democratic state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, and his sister, P.J. Cullerton, the 38th Ward Democratic committeeman.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings: 36th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato, who's considering jumping over to the 38th after his ward was redrawn to encompass a greater number of Latino voters.

"In a sense, I was an accidental alderman," says Cullerton, who reliably backed legislation by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and current boss Rahm Emanuel. "I really enjoy the work, but don’t enjoy the politics."

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