State Senator Schoenberg leaves office to pursue work in philanthropy


Courtesy of State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg is leaving office after deciding not to run for re-election in November 2011. Current State Rep. Daniel Biss (D-17th) easily won Schoenberg's seat in this past November's election.

Edward Cox, Reporter

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-9th) will now devote his time to philanthropy after a 22-year career in public office.

State Rep. Daniel Biss (D-17th) won Schoenberg’s seat with his endorsement in the November election.

“Incoming state senator Daniel Biss will have large shoes to fill, given how well Jeff has served the Illinois Senate’s 9th District,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a Dec. 20 news release.

Rather than running for re-election, Schoenberg announced in 2011 that he would devote his time to philanthropic work with the Pritzker family. Schoenberg will act as a financial consultant in early childhood development for The Pritzker Group, the family’s multibillion dollar investment firm.

“My position in the state Senate is only one point, really, in entry to public service,” Schoenberg said at the 2011 news conference where he announced he was not running again.

In his last year of office, Schoenberg secured state funds to replace three viaducts on Grove, Dempster and Greenleaf Streets in Evanston. The  $10.3 million installations replaced the crumbling 100-year-old bridges that spanned the CTA Purple Line.

“Schoenberg said that he (wouldn’t) stop being state senator until he got us all the viaducts,” Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said. “It’s hard for anyone to get anything done in the state legislature, but he got that done.”

Since taking office as a state House representative in 1990, Schoenberg has sponsored bills to promote greater oversight of the Illinois Tollway Authority, equality of health care costs across income levels and control of the state budget.

Since his election to the state senate in 2002, Schoenberg has secured $5 billion for safety net hospitals, such as the Holy Cross Hospital and the Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, which provide health care to the poor and uninsured.

“Schoenberg is one of our biggest advocates of health care, and I will definitely miss his leadership on this issue,” said State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th), who worked with the senator on health care issues. “I consider him a dear friend, and I know that the next thing he does in life is to serve people.”

Television show producer Rabbi Doug Zelden said he is a childhood friend of Schoenberg and attended the same synagogue as him growing up in Des Plaines, Ill. Zelden said he believes Schoenberg is transitioning to the private sector in part because of the pressures related to working in public office.

“I think there comes a time where one will say, ‘When do I retire from public office?'” Zelden said. “(Schoenberg) may feel there are no aspirations from where he is. He will be home with his family most of the time now.”

Tisdahl said she was sad to see Schoenberg leave, but understood why he might do so after talking to her daughter.

“My daughter told me, ‘Mom, what do you think he would (rather) do: Work for a bankrupt state or for a millionaire?’” Tisdahl said.