You’re never done with this job. It’s not like you can say, “I’m doing this job because I want to do this, this, and this.” If that’s why you’re doing the job, then you’re more of a project manager than you are an alderman. You’re just going to do certain things, and then you’ve satisfied yourself. The spectrum of what you do as an alderman is actually what appeals most to me, because you have the ability to be involved in your community and in the lives of the people who live in your community in a very intimate way.

At the same time you can be the alderman and not come in contact with a large number of people in the ward; they might never be aware that you’re actually doing the things you’re doing for them. But in a ward like ours you can work on infrastructure, you can work on buildings, you can work on schools, you can work on public safety, you can work on health, you can work on domestic violence—things that people don’t associate with an alderman’s office you actually are involved in because we fund those things. We have entities that run these programs. You get involved in making these programs work.

Like Swedish Covenant’s opening the Woman’s Health Center the other day—that doesn’t happen without the City of Chicago. We made a huge contribution to making that a reality. People will be going to that facility for decades to come, improving their health, getting culturally-aware treatment that’s really going to improve the health of our community. It’s incredible, it’s something that’s just phenomenal.

The thing that is nice about this job is that you can drive through a community and you can point to things you’ve worked on that have improved the neighborhood. You can point to schools, you can point to baseball fields and playgrounds. You can drive through the community and take great personal satisfaction that you’ve been part of preserving or making things better.

The thing that is nice about this job is that you can drive through a community and you can point to things you’ve worked on that have improved the neighborhood. You can point to schools, you can point to baseball fields and playgrounds. You can drive through the community and take great personal satisfaction that you’ve been part of preserving or making things better.

You get to work with great people. You work with people that you’ve known, in many instances, all your life… On our staff I’ve got people who have worked here for as long as I’ve been in government. They know the neighborhood like I do.

You get to work with great people. You work with people that you’ve known, in many instances, all your life—and in some instances you’ve just met, but they’re nonetheless added to the list of people that really made an impact in your life. And that’s something that very few jobs afford you. That’s a big part of it. On our staff I’ve got people who have worked here for as long as I’ve been in government. They know the neighborhood like I do.

I’ve always thought you’ve just got to treat your neighborhood like your house, or like your back yard… In our community you take things personally if they go wrong, and at the same time you take great pride if they go right.

I’ve always thought you’ve just got to treat your neighborhood like your house, or like your back yard. If it’s something you wouldn’t tolerate, you can’t tolerate it. And I just think that in our community you take things personally if they go wrong, and at the same time you take great pride if they go right.

It’s a real opportunity to do things that you can accomplish, where in other parts of government you just can’t. If you’re in the State House, or you’re a Congressman, it’s very difficult to come back and say, “Oh, I did this.” It’s very difficult because your policy and everything’s up in the ether somewhere. Whereas if you are here, you can point to things that you’ve worked on with neighborhoods. When you are involved in a community, you get to be involved in it in every way possible. It’s the only job in government that allows or affords you that possibility. You just have a great, great ability to affect stuff.

You see the parents of guys and girls that you went to school with, and now they’re much older, and you think back, and you think, ‘Oh, my God, I’m older than they were when I thought they were old.’ So there are constant reminders that time marches on. But this is for me a way of making a difference.

Now, there are downsides a little bit, but they’re not really downsides, they’re just things that make it a little bit more challenging. If you live in the same neighborhood all your life, you basically see yourself and things grow old in front of your eyes all the time. You see the parents of guys and girls that you went to school with, and now they’re much older, and you think back, and you think, “Oh, my God, I’m older than they were when I thought they were old.” So there are constant reminders that time marches on. But this is for me a way of making a difference.

As a family we’re very fortunate. We all live within 3/4 of a mile… Every time we do something for this neighborhood, we do it for our community. And that is a nice way of being able to be involved in community and government.

As a family we’re very fortunate. We all live within 3/4 of a mile, all my siblings with the exception of my oldest brother Mike, and my Ma still lives in the neighborhood, and my five children all live within a half a mile of my house. Every time we do something for this neighborhood, we do it for our community. And that is a nice way of being able to be involved in community and government. There’s no nicer way to be involved.

At the same time you can be involved in the city-wide issues, you can help set policy, you can be less parochial and more broad-minded, if you will, when you get involved in stuff like the Wrigley field expansion. That was a great opportunity. Some of the school strikes I’ve been involved in, some of the labor negotiations leading to the contracts with the police and fire—all of these things are policy driven, broader things for the city, that you can take pride in.

Sometimes it’s a good defensive play, you’ve stopped something from happening in your neighborhood that everyone didn’t want to see happen. Or you’ve been able to prevent something that was wrong from continuing.

But, at the same time you can combine that with the local stuff, because every day isn’t a home run. Every day you’re off at bat, but you’re not gonna get a home run everyday, but you can take pride and happiness in getting a single once in awhile. Or sometimes it’s a good defensive play, you’ve stopped something from happening in your neighborhood that everyone didn’t want to see happen. Or you’ve been able to prevent something that was wrong from continuing.

This is just being able to live life everyday, making it a little better for somebody and in most instances for a lot of people. And you can take satisfaction in that. It’s a great, great life.

You’ve got to take your victories big, and small, as they come, and if you can find satisfaction in that, this is a tremendous job. If you’re always looking for the big play it can be very frustrating. Government in general can be very frustrating if you’re looking for the big play. This is just being able to live life everyday, making it a little better for somebody and in most instances for a lot of people. And you can take satisfaction in that. It’s a great, great life.

40th Ward Alderman Patrick O'Connor