Tom McAvoy’s resignation as 3rd Ward alderman during the Aug. 24 Hickory Hills Council meeting surprised those in attendance.
However, those who know McAvoy well knew what he was up to.
“I sent a letter out to over 100 friends and folks (before the meeting) who have volunteered to assist me in completing many non-partisan community projects and programs over the last 14 years,” said McAvoy.
McAvoy has been a fixture in in the Hickory Hills City Council when he was elected on April 1, 2003 with 59.8 percent of the vote in a three-candidate contest. He went on to become the chair of the City Council Business Development Committee, city liaison to the Hills Chamber of Commerce, and member of the Hickory Hills Economic Development Committee.
The former alderman cited health issues as the reason for this retirement, which became effective on Aug. 31. A U.S. Army veteran, McAvoy served in the 525th Military Intelligence Group while in Vietnam from 1971 to 1972. He was honorably discharged from the Army on June 22, 1973.
In the letter to colleagues, friends and relatives, McAvoy said he enjoyed his 14 years in office but added that he “just no longer has the energy to do all the elements of the job I have done in the past and that I believe an alderman should do in that office.”
McAvoy added that according to the Veteran’s Affairs Department, his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam over 45 years ago has created his current health issues.
“On a lighter note, I have really enjoyed my job as alderman,” added McAvoy. “I could write a book full of stories about various events and incidents over the years. The bad memories are very few and overwhelmingly counter balanced by the good ones.”
McAvoy, 66, also said that many experiences he had were often hilarious. He added that it would be difficult to choose one specific great moment because there were many.
He was often cited for his hard work and diligence to duty, including organizing the Bingo Tent each year at the Hickory Hills Street Fair. He was cited for distributing semi-annul ward newsletters to keep residents informed of what was going on in the community.
“I have a great deal of respect for him and will be forever grateful for having served on the city council with him,” said Mayor Mike Howley.
While McAvoy’s attention to detail was well noted, so was his sense of humor. During last year’s presidential election, McAvoy came up with the idea of passing out “barf bags” to voters to deal with a controversial election in which both major candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, had major critics.
McAvoy even passed out the barf bags to residents who were arriving to vote at St. Patricia Parish.
“Just hold your nose and vote,” he told voters who came to cast their ballots.
While McAvoy served for 14 years in the Hickory Hills City Council, it was not his first efforts on the political stage. McAvoy served as a state representative as a Republican for the 27th District from 1982 to 1983, which at the time covered portions of Chicago’s Southwest Side, Burbank, Bridgeview and Bedford Park. He was also a Chicago office manager for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. He also held positions for the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Walter Quality Association.
McAvoy once boasted that his grandfather, Tom, was a union organizer of grain elevator operators in the Chicago Stockyards and worked for the Roosevelts. But he quickly pointed out that he worked for the Republican Roosevelts – Theodore and Edith. He grandfather was working for Teddy Roosevelt during his 1904 election bid for president.
McAvoy’s father, Walter “Babe” McAvoy, was in his fourth term as Republican state representative when Tom was born in 1951. McAvoy said he was 7 years old when he sort of volunteered to work for his father’s reelection in 1958.
The younger McAvoy was soon hooked on politics. While losing bids for the Senate (1982) and the House (1986), he was elected Republican ward committeeman for the 16th Ward on Chicago’s Southwest Side during the 1980s.
McAvoy, who has lived in Hickory Hills since 1993, said despite his retirement, he won’t disappear. He told the Hickory Hills City Council he will continue to work as a consultant.
“I told them I would do it if I was paid a salary. I will do it for $1 per year,” McAvoy quipped.