NORWOOD PARK — Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) threw his support Wednesday behind a retired city worker and union official in the race for 41st Ward Democratic committeeman.
Napolitano — the only member of the Chicago City Council to be endorsed by the Chicago Republican Party — said Andrew "Andy" DeVito's experience as a city employee and business agent for the International Laborer's Union of North America would "be an asset" to all families in the ward, which includes Norwood Park, O'Hare, Edison Park and Edgebrook.
"He is a real down-to-earth guy who is the epitome of the 41st Ward," where a large percentage of city workers live, Napolitano said.
DeVito is committed to ensuring that the ward's appearance improves, with more streets repaved, more trees trimmed and sidewalks repaired, Napolitano said.
"We have a lot of shared interests," Napolitano said.
The race is shaping up to be a contest between DeVito, a Norwood Park resident, and Tim Heneghan, a suburban firefighter from Edison Park, who has the endorsement of the 41st Ward Democratic Organization and former Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st.)
"I want to make the 41st Ward stronger and a better place to live," said DeVito, 64.
In each ward, two unpaid committeemen — one Republican, one Democratic — oversee voter registration, work to boost voter turnout and ensure elections run smoothly.
In many wards, the alderman — or his or her close ally — serves as the committeeman to consolidate power and operations. For example, in the 45th Ward, Ald. John Arena is also the Democratic committeeman. The position is often used by newcomers as a stepping stone to the City Council.
But while Heneghan has declined to rule out a run against Napolitano in 2019, DeVito said he has no desire to be an alderman.
"I have no political ambitions," DeVito said.
DeVito, who has lived in Norwood Park since 1996, began his career with the city in 1971 as a laborer in the Department of Streets and Sanitation. After working as a foreman in the garbage collection division, DeVito transferred to the Department of Aviation, where he oversaw construction projects at O'Hare Airport.
After he retired in 2002, DeVito became the business agent for the union representing employees at the airports. He then served as a community liaison for the union, representing employees in nine counties.
Now that he's retired from his position with the union, DeVito said serving as the 41st Ward Democratic Committeeman would give him a way to stay in touch with old friends and serve the public.
DeVito, who grew up on Taylor Street on the West Side, is married to his childhood sweetheart, Kathleen, and has two grown children. His first grandchild, a boy, is 4 months old.
DeVito and Napolitano, a former Chicago Police officer and firefighter, met last year after the alderman launched his campaign against O'Connor.
DeVito said he was disappointed with O'Connor when she supported Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push during his first term to bring in nonunion workers to fill jobs at O'Hare and Midway airports.
"I was not pleased with O'Connor," DeVito said.
While the Service International Employees Union supported the former alderman in her first run for the City Council, it spent approximately $80,000 on negative ads blasting O'Connor as bad for working families during the runoff campaign after she voted against a plan to raise the minimum wage and failed to back its campaign against the elimination of union jobs at O'Hare Airport.
Napolitano said he didn't see anything wrong with endorsing a candidate in a race that will be decided by Democratic voters when he is not a member of the political party.
"I consider myself an independent," Napolitano said. "My whole generation is disgusted with political parties."
While DeVito said he was a proud Democrat, he said he voted for Napolitano because of his pro-union record and union membership.
"We'll have a good working relationship, as long as he does what's right for the ward," DeVito said.
Napolitano was the only Far Northwest Side alderman to vote against the largest tax increase in Chicago history — touted by Emanuel as the only way to fill the city's massive deficit and shore up pensions for police officers and firefighters.
DeVito said he had no position on the budget or the tax hike.
Candidates for the 41st Ward Democratic committeeman must submit at least 700 signatures from registered voters by Nov. 30 to qualify for the ballot.
The election for committeeman takes place March 15.
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