Editor’s note: This profile is the third in a three-part series featuring the candidates slated for the Feb. 27 mayoral primary.
Terry Steinbach puts her money where her mouth is.
In November of 2002 Steinbach was disgusted when the council voted to increase the salary of commissioners from $3,000 to $10,000. That move prompted her decision to run for office and since being elected to the village council in 2003, Steinbach has donated the $7,000 pay raise each year. In her first year she donated most of the raise to help pay for a fountain at the dog park. She now donates the money annually to District 91 to pay for band camp scholarships and to provide books to kindergarten students.
Steinbach is basing her campaign for mayor on fiscal responsibility, a trait that is sorely lacking from the incumbent’s character, she said.
The pay raise for village commissioners was only the last straw for Steinbach though. She was already concerned about the hiring of attorney Anthony Bruno to manage the village water project.
“It was a bloated and lavish spending administration,” Steinbach said in a recent interview at her Thomas Avenue home. “I didn’t agree with where (the mayor) had taken the village.”
She went from being a supporter of Anthony Calderone’s, who was an elementary school classmate, to being an opponent because of what she viewed as wasteful spending. On Feb. 27, Steinbach is hoping to win enough votes to carry her past the primary and into April’s general election.
Steinbach and Calderone sat in the same classroom every year from kindergarten through sixth grade at Garfield. Now they do not speak to each other outside of village meetings. Ironically, Steinbach’s first experience in village politics was working on Calderone’s 1995 campaign for the village council. In the 1990s Steinbach and her husband at the time Dave Bogdan, joined Calderone at Doc Ryan’s most every Friday for food, drink and to solve the problems of the world.
If elected mayor, Steinbach said she would build up the village’s financial reserves and reduce the use of outside consultants. She wants to extend the village’s success in redeveloping the east end of Madison Street to the western half, as well as to Roosevelt Road and Harlem Avenue. She is against the use of eminent domain to create more parking and instead has proposed public/private partnerships to solve the Madison Street parking crunch.
She has emphasized open and honest government and signed the campaign finance pledge developed by Citizens United in Forest Park. Activists in CUinFP are among her most dedicated volunteers and supporters.
Steinbach takes credit for ensuring that the 2004 half-cent increase in the village’s portion of the sales tax was dedicated solely to infrastructure improvements. The village council had agreed that the vote to put the referendum on the ballot had to be unanimous. When the motion came before the village council Steinbach said she was surprised to see the additional revenue was being directed into the general fund.
“I pitched a fit and that’s the only time my persistence has won me the vote,” Steinbach said. “I refused to go along with it and we agreed that it had to be unanimous. My proudest accomplishment was keeping the money from the sales tax revenue out of the operating fund and using it only for infrastructure improvements.”
Perhaps juxtaposed to her platform of financial restraint is a federal lawsuit she filed against the village. Steinbach is seeking an unspecified amount in damages for what she terms as privacy violations committed by the village and at least three individuals.
In her suit, Steinbach has named only one person. The other John Doe defendants are alleged to be co-conspirators.
“I would not have gone forward with the suit unless I didn’t think there was substantial evidence, nor would my attorney have taken the case if he did not believe there was evidence,” Steinbach said.
In court filings, the village has denied any wrongdoing. Village Administrator Mike Sturino also said an internal investigation, which cost taxpayers some $10,000, turned up nothing.
That expense, Steinbach said, should be attributed to the village administrator, because when the suit was initially filed the village had not been named as a defendant.
“Perhaps the village’s initial investigation, which involved the hiring of a law firm, was premature,” Steinbach said.
In justifying his decision to investigate the claim, Sturino said it would be irresponsible to let allegations of a security breach in the village’s e-mail system go unchecked.
In the private sector, Steinbach is in her eighth year of teaching at DePaul University where she is an assistant professor in the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems.
She has always been studious and has fond memories of spending hours curled up in a nook of the old library reading the “Nancy Drew” series.
However, this high school honor student didn’t go to college right after graduating from Proviso East in 1974. Instead she got married and had two children by the age of 23.
After the birth of her kids she began taking classes at Triton in 1980. She has pretty much been in school, either taking classes or teaching, ever since. She has amassed three degrees from DePaul and is on the verge of earning her Ph.D. She earned a B.A. in math in 1988, an MBA with a specialty in quantitative economics in 1990, and an M.S. in information science. She expects to receive her doctoral degree in computer sciences this year.
Steinbach takes a rather academic approach to government. She studies issues, but readily admits that she is not as glib as her two opponents, Calderone and Commissioner Patrick Doolin.
“I’m an elected official, I’m not a politician,” Steinbach said. “I’m not a sales person. I think that my opponents are sales people. They sell themselves. I don’t say what people want to hear. I say what I think. I do my homework. I investigate the issues as much as possible before I make a decision.”