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Election preview: Alsberry hopes to tap into 5th District life experiences by serving as Cook County commissioner

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series featuring candidates for Cook County’s 5th District, which includes Flossmoor.

Vernard L. Alsberry Jr. may be best known nowadays as the mayor of Hazel Crest, serving his ninth year in that position. But he grew up in the Altgeld Gardens public housing project on Chicago’s South Side — and, more pertinently, within Cook County’s 5th District — and attended nearby Carver High School.

When longtime District 5 Commissioner Deborah Sims announced her retirement from the office, Alsberry, 66, of Hazel Crest, filed to run for the soon-to-be open seat.

Vernard Alsberry

“The district actually encompasses where my childhood was and where I live now,” Alsberry said. “I think it gives me a unique perspective of the needs of the region. … With my experience and wanting to really give back to the community I came from, I thought it was a great opportunity.”

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Alsberry holds a bachelor’s degree in health administration and a master’s degree in public administration, both from Governors State University. He also has associate’s degrees in physical therapy. He is a licensed physical therapist assistant in Illinois and Indiana.

In addition to his experience as mayor, Alsberry served two terms as trustee in Hazel Crest. He hopes to expand the work he has done in the village to more of the South Suburbs and South Side neighborhoods that make up the 5th District.

“The district is now coming into its own,” Alsberry said. “We’ve had years of the Southland region struggling. Now, with the influx of intermodals, new business, some land growth with new businesses coming out here … with my relationships over the years that I’ve established at the federal, county and local levels, I’m able to maneuver us through this much-needed time post-pandemic to make sure we get the services and advocacy we need through Cook County.”

Alsberry said his record of service speaks to what he can accomplish for the entire district. He noted he has been involved with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and Illinois Municipal League, and has worked with United Way.

“I’ve always been an advocate for the whole Southland region,” Alsberry said. “I think that perspective and activity with those organizations … assist me in being able to represent the whole region.

“I think it’s important we move into this open seat that’s been held for 28 years with someone who understands or has relationships throughout the state, federal and county levels, who has been involved throughout the region, and has established organizations and worked with non-for-profits and the clergies to actually address all the issues in the Southland region.”

Alsberry said the biggest problem he sees in Cook County, especially in the Southland, is violence — particularly gun violence and carjackings. Alsberry said he would work with the county to find ways to address that issue, as well as health care concerns amplified by the pandemic.

Alsberry said he also wants to seek an “economic engine of support” to help decrease taxes in the Southland. Economic growth will help take the burden off property owners, he said.

He applauded Sims for her 28 years of service to the district, saying he thinks anyone who steps into a position like this has to have the best of the region at heart.

“I commend anyone who steps into public service and tries to do whatever they can do,” Alsberry said. “Her long service and being reelected many times shows that she has some support here in the Southland. I wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Alsberry’s campaign site notes his core values are integrity, excellence and “service before self,” the last of which he has adopted as a campaign slogan. In addition to the aforementioned memberships, Alsberry has been involved with the Advocate South Suburban Hospital Governing Council, Southland Partnership, Southland Regional Mayoral Black Caucus, Southland Development Authority, South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority, Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, and Hazel Crest American Legion Post 398. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force.

Alsberry said if elected commissioner of Cook County’s 5th District, he does not think the position is compatible with his current role as mayor, but he was still researching his options in April. For more information about Alsberry, visit alsberry.org.

The General Primary in Illinois is Tuesday, June 28. Alsberry is to face off in the District 5 Democratic primary against Jaylin D. McClinton, Kierra Williams and Monica M. Gordon. No Republican candidates have filed to run for the office. District 5 includes Flossmoor.

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