10/04/2011 05:21 pm ET Updated Dec 04, 2011

WTF Is a Committeeman? And Why I Want to Be One

When you hear "Chicago Ward Committeeman" what do you think? Before I was in the game, it conjured the good old images of the smoky room, all men, all self-aggrandizers, all smoking large cigars... I now appreciate that the reality is slightly different.

Every ward has a Democratic and a Republican Committeeman. Basically, their job is to handle the politics (voter registration, election day operations, etc.) of the ward, while the Alderman takes care of the government and service side of things. Committeemen are not paid.

When an elected official leaves office (for whatever reason) the Ward Committeemen of the district gets to select the replacement. For example, when Ricky Hendon left his State Senate position, State Representative Annazette Collins was chosen to replace him, last March. Then in a separate meeting, the Committeemen got to pick her replacement in the legislature.

Because the Senate and Representative districts covered numerous wards, numerous Democratic Committeemen (with varying degrees of say, depending on the size of what they represent in the district) get to select the replacement.

Committeemen are part of the Cook County Democratic Organization, made famous by Richard J. and now headed by Assessor Joe Berrios. As a group they choose who to "slate." Or in easier words, they pick which candidate in any race gets to be the "Democrat."

Thanks for sticking with me, through all that detail above. It's quite an intricate task to explain what Committeemen do. Now, let me tell you why I want to be one...

As you can see from this list, the vast majority of Ward Committeemen are the Alderman of their ward too. It makes a lot of sense, to have the same person do both things. As much as people wish they were, politics and government are not easily disconnected. Politics is often the fuel for government to do its business.

People shouldn't pretend that anyone in elected office is apolitical. Unless a candidate pledges to have one term (and actually does it once elected), all elected officials are thinking about and planning for their re-election. This fact is not a bad thing. "Politics" has become a dirty word over the last couple of decades. I understand why this has happened, but I hope to do my part to change this perception, which is a reason why I'm running for Committeeman.

Politics is democracy in action. If office-holders aren't responsive/politically savvy enough to do what their voters want, they'll get voted out. Politics gave us the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of Capital Punishment in Illinois and a lot of good things in-between.

I have nothing, at all, against the current Committeemen of the 1st Ward. He's done a good job over the last three years and is an extremely nice person. I want to consolidate government and politics in the 1st Ward, quite simply, because it will be better for the people who live here.