Bill Cunningham, 47, is the State Senator for Illinois’ 18th District, having been sworn into office in January of 2013. The district includes sections of Orland, Worth, and Palos Townships in the Southwest Cook County Suburbs, as well as portions of the 18th, 19th, and 21st Wards in the city of Chicago.
A life-long resident of the Southwest Side and Suburbs, Cunningham has made promoting public safety and reforming Illinois’ political culture the centerpiece of his time in elected office. Before moving to the Illinois Senate, Cunningham served in the State House of Representatives from 2011-2013. As a member of the House, he sponsored several pieces of legislation designed to crackdown on registered sex offenders and protect senior citizens. He fought for consumer rights by opposing legislation that would increase ComEd’s electrical rates. And he worked to create new educational opportunities in his district by passing legislation to expand the Chicago Agricultural High School.
Cunningham also fought to change the political culture in Springfield by refusing to give out legislative scholarships and voting to abolish the tuition waver program that had been abused by politicians for years.
In the State Senate, Cunningham has continued to fight for the rights of working men and women in Illinois. He authored and passed a law to crackdown on rogue companies who avoid making their employee’s Social Security and Medicare payments and he co-sponsored legislation to reform Illinois’ broken public employee pension system. In his ongoing push for government reform, Cunningham launched an effort to de-politicize the judicial system by enacting a form of merit selection of judges. And he has voted several times to reduce his own legislative pay and pension benefits. When the General Assembly didn’t include legislative furlough days in the 2014 budget, Cunningham refused the resulting boost in pay and donated the difference to various charities in his district.
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Cunningham has been a champion for special education students by enacting laws that require school districts to regularly update Individual Education Plans and to provide disabled students equal access to physical education opportunities. He has also sponsored legislation to ensure private schools meet the same safety standards as public schools.
Before joining the General Assembly, Cunningham spent the previous twenty years of his career working for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, serving as Director of Communications to Sheriff Mike Sheahan and as Chief of Staff to Sheriff Tom Dart.
In each of these positions, Bill obtained vast experience managing nearly 7,000 Sheriff’s Office employees and by forming policies for one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the nation.
As a top advisor to Sheriff Sheahan, he assisted in the development the state’s first online sex offender registration website and coordinated efforts to improve monitoring of registered sex offenders. He also helped establish the Sheriff’s Senior Law Enforcement Academy, a community policing program that provides senior citizens with crime prevention tips and free cell phones for emergency use.
As chief of staff, Bill managed Sheriff Dart’s efforts to fight banks and lenders that attempted to wrongfully evict victims of the mortgage foreclosure crisis and worked with the legislature to impose longer prison terms on inmates who attempt to harm the staff at Cook County Jail.
As a husband and father, Cunningham has been active in his community, coaching a youth soccer team and volunteering for charitable causes. He has also worked to improve educational institutions in his neighborhood by serving as a parent representative on the Sutherland Local School Council, where he worked to identify new revenue sources when faced with budget shortfalls and supported new procedures to crack down on fraudulent enrollment.
Bill is a graduate of Saint Barnabas Grammar School (1981), Mount Carmel High School (1985), and the University of Illinois at Chicago (1990,) where he received a degree in Political Science. Bill and his wife Juliana have two daughters and reside in the Beverly community.
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