For the past 17 years, Cynthia Santos has been leading the effort to protect the health and safety of Cook County by:
A lifetime of community service
Supporting Valuable Community Organizations and honoring civic duty has been Cynthia’s life-long passion:
Cynthia M. Santos
Current MWRD Commissioner
Labor and Industrial Relations
State Legislation and Rules
Real Estate Development
Commissioner Cynthia Santos has served on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for the past 16 years. During her tenure, Commissioner Santos has been instrumental in the development of the Stormwater Management Program. She has also lobbied successfully in Springfield for pension reform as well as numerous other legislation pertinent to the mission of the MWRD and offered sound fiscal management and policy direction. Commissioner Santos is State Central Committeewoman for the 5th Congressional District. She has served as a delegate for the State of Illinois Democratic Party, as well as the Democratic National Committee. In addition, she has been appointed by the State Central Committee to serve on the Affirmative Action Committee for the Democratic National Convention.
Until recently, Commissioner Santos served as the MWRD’s representative as Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Public Building Commission. During her long tenure on this board, she served as Chairman of the Administrative Operations Committee and was instrumental in the building of many new schools, libraries, police and fire stations.
In addition to her career as an elected public official, Commissioner Santos served the Illinois Secretary of State in the past as Senior Manager of the Chicago Metro Driver’s Facility, Trainer for the Vehicle Service Division, and as Field Auditor for their Department of Accounting Revenue.
Commissioner Santos is currently the Development Director for Saint Viator Parish and School, which she attended for her elementary education. She attended Good Counsel High School and Northeastern Illinois University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Summa Cum Laude. In furthering her education
Commissioner Santos is completing her Master’s Degree in Political Science and Public Administration at Northeastern Illinois University.
She resides on the northwest side of Chicago with her husband, former State Representative Rich Bradley. She is the proud mother of daughter Cristine and step-daughters, Meghan and Julianne, and grandmother to Collin Bradley.
In her free time, Commissioner Santos enjoys gardening, knitting and volunteering in her community.
Her community work includes:
My journey began in my late teens, as I became extremely interested in government and political organizations. I remember my mother working at the polls as an election judge late into the wee morning hours, counting votes from a machine that was a series of levers and pulls that punched heavy cardstock ballots which then had to be manually counted by each and every one of the seven to nine judges at that precinct. I found the process absolutely fascinating and couldn’t wait until I could be a part of it.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m now a twenty-something single mom with a very young little girl. I worked at a myriad of jobs from dental assisting to retail in order to support my daughter and myself. In addition to working, I spent countless hours volunteering at my church, was a Brownie Girl Scout Leader, and got involved in neighborhood clean-ups and beautification projects.
Because the political interest was still deep in my blood, I volunteered as a precinct worker for my local alderman. I attended neighborhood meetings on his behalf, got involved in community projects, and contributed to his re-election campaign by circulating nomination petitions, passing out literature, and knocking on doors in order to generate votes for the alderman and the candidates the organization supported. Because of my diligence during the campaign, I was asked to come on staff and worked as an administrative assistant to the Alderman for about 10 years.
During this time I learned a great deal about municipal government. Strange as it may sound, this made every day an adventure. I loved solving problems, and there were a lot of problems to solve—be it getting an abandoned car towed or a tree trimmed or even getting someone a garbage can, I found the solution process completely invigorating. I was helping someone get something she needed, something small maybe but a helpful improvement, a change to make their lives slightly easier or better.
While working for the alderman, I met a number of people who recognized my dedication to service, this love for what I see as my craft. I was encouraged to run for public office, and in 1995 I filed nominating petitions for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Let me say, this was no easy undertaking.
I was required to file at minimum 12,000 signatures of people supporting my election to that office. I stood in front of Jewel and Kmart for hours leafleting, I stood outside the L and the Metra Station, and I went door-to-door asking for signatures on the page, that petition that would ensure my name was printed on the ballot for nomination as the Democratic Candidate for this office.
I won the Primary Election in the Spring of 1996 and was elected to office in due course that Fall in the General Election. For the past 17 years I have served the office of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to the best of my ability. That’s key—to the best of my ability. While I have felt I was good at my craft and was gratified to receive recognition from colleagues and the voters of Cook County, still there was something I personally felt lacking: the completion of my education.
Due to circumstances out of my control, I had not finished college. While this fact didn’t hold me back from attaining the professional goal of gaining elected office, it still represented a void in my desire to be my personal best.
So at the “young” age of 42, I returned to school, attending Northeastern Illinois University, and graduated Suma Cum Laude with my Bachelors Degree in Political Science.
This was fantastic! I felt invigorated and knew I could do better, so I applied to the Masters program, and here I am just two classes shy of finishing my graduate degree. Educationally, what’s next? I am not closing any doors.
I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that my educational accomplishments have sharpened and improved my craft.
Would I still get elected without my degrees? Probably. Would I be as good at my craft as I am today without it? Definitely not.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I do. The nine-member Board of Commissioners is elected by the voters of the District’s 883 square-mile service area within Cook County. The Board adopts a Budget each year and meets regularly to set policies for the staff of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The General Superintendent then carries out those policies, as directed by the board, and supervises the day-to-day activities of the 2000 plus employees of this agency.
The primary service our agency is treatment of wastewater from residential, large commercial, industrial, and tax-exempt users throughout the district. The agency is supported by property taxes and charges to many of the users that discharge wastewater into our sewer system.
As a member of the leading environmental agency in Cook County and the biggest wastewater treatment facility in the world, I am dedicated to providing a quality water environment for our service area. I have been instrumental in the responsible fiscal management of our agency while serving on the Pension Board and Chairing the Committee of Finance for several years. We have limited resources, generated from tax dollars, bond sales, and Federal grants. Excellence in service is non-negotiable, so I work diligently in my capacity as a leader of this organization to ensure responsible utility management.
During my tenure we have received numerous awards for sound fiscal management. We have passed comprehensive pension legislation that
ensures our retirees are supported without hindering tax supporters of our agency—the only governmental agency in Illinois to have done so.
In addition to these responsibilities, I have served on the Board of Commissioner of the Public Building Commission for 12 years. As a representative elected by my peers at the MWRD, I have supervised the budgetary processes of building public schools, police stations, fire stations, and libraries throughout Chicago. My expertise as an active member of the agency was key towards the efficient and effective steering of this agency.
I have been elected 3 times to serve the Democratic Party of Illinois as a Delegate for the Democratic National Committee, Chairman of Illinois’ Affirmative Action Committee. I serve the State of Illinois today as Democratic State Central Committeewoman, representing the residents of the 5th Congressional District before the State Democratic Party to ensure that all State Candidates represent the goals and needs of the residents of this district.
The cornerstone of my political philosophy is a commitment to the residents of Cook County: a commitment to sustainable environmental stewardship, which means a constant striving to improve the air, land and water environment of our region.
I will continue to work diligently to protect the environmental quality of our region, protect Lake Michigan from pollution, and maintain public health and safety while preserving water as a vital resource.
I am committed to continued improvement of my craft through education and am keeping the door open to further learning opportunities. My passion for volunteerism continues as I work for my local parish helping to develop financial resources, volunteering once more as a Girl Scout Leader, and leading my community by example by volunteering for local and national organizations that strive to improve the lives of each and every member of our community.
One of my most passionate commitments is the empowerment of women. One of my favorite lines states, “when women vote, people listen.” I know that education empowers women, as it did for me. I will continue to be an advocate for embracing education toward the improvement or expansion of your passion or craft.
Leaders for Water Reclamation is a Democratic Slate of three candidates: Tom Courtney, Adam Miguest, and Cynthia Santos. We decided to run for the Water Reclamation Commission seats because we share a deep commitment to protecting the health and safety of the public as well as a passionate concern for our environment and one of its most vital resources, water.
We each want to continue our service to our community and put our real world experiences to work for the people of the District. Though we are each different, we share a common goal, service. We know that together we can build a better future and look forward to continuing our dialogue.
See you on the campaign trail,
Tom, Adam & Cynthia
Chicago Federation of Labor
Jorge Ramirez, President:
On behalf of the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, and the 500,000 working men and women we represent, we are pleased to extend our endorsement in your campaign for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner. You demonstrated a strong understanding and respect for the issues that are important to working families and union labor, and we are confident that your intellect and experience will serve you well in office. We look forward to working with you in the coming months to ensure your victory in the March primary election.
Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7
Daniel D. Gorman, Political Action Committee Chairman:
I am pleased to inform you that the Board of Directors of the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge #7, voted to endorse your candidacy in the upcoming March General Primary Election. We wish you well in your efforts and hope to share in your success on Election Day and throughout your term of service. Please feel free to use our name and our endorsement appropriately.
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399
Brian E. Hickey, President & Business Manager
Committeeman John O’Sullivan, Worth Township
Mayor Larry Dominick, Cicero
Hanover Park Democrats
The MWRD is responsible for managing water supply and wastewater issues for the greater Chicago area, comprising 883 square miles covering the City of Chicago and 125 suburban municipalities. The MWRD treats an average 1.5 billion US gallons of wastewater each day and operates the largest wastewater treatment plant in the world, the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in Cicero, in addition to six other plants and 23 pumping stations. The MWRD will begin recovering phosphorus and nitrogen from its Stickney Water Reclamation Plant in the fall of 2015. Environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has applauded the MWRD’s efforts, citing the significant benefits nutrient recovery will provide to Chicago area watersheds. The MWRD is governed by a nine-member Board of Commissioners, elected at large from throughout Cook County for six-year terms. Commissioners act as the MWRD’s legislative branch establishing policies and procedures for meeting the goals of the District.Continue Reading..
MWRD rain barrel program
The MWRD makes available at a discount to residents up to two 55-gallon rain barrels for the collection and reuse of stormwater.
What Can I Do to Conserve and Manage Water? Conserve: Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when there is a full load or use low water level features.Water your lawn in the early morning, when temperatures are cooler, to minimize evaporation. Repair dripping faucets and leaky toilets. Don’t dump: Take your motor oil or household chemicals to city-sponsored household hazardous waste drop-off events for disposal. Don’t dump it down the drain or in the sewer. Manage stormwater: Disconnect downspouts when appropriate. Water runoff during heavy storms can overload Chicago’s sewer system, dumping sewage into the river. Use rainwater from your roof by letting it run onto your garden.
Introduction to Green Design: Beyond the Lake Michigan shoreline, our water resources extend beyond, and beneath, the City. They are the Chicago River, Lake Calumet, the Calumet River, thousands of acres of wetlands, creeks, streams, and lagoons, as well as canals and channels. Equally important are the thousands of miles of pipes, man-made tributaries, that have – for over a hundred years – delivered drinking water and helped us manage stormwater. These resources are critical to our public health, safety, economy and quality of life. They provide recreational opportunities like boating, fishing and swimming. Our waterways provide natural experiences in an urban setting. We are fortunate to live near some of the cleanest drinking water in the world.
Chicago Center for Green Technology provides educational support for designing and building sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through its Green Tech U seminars, guided and self-guided tours, and Green Building Resource Center.
City of Chicago Green Building and Homes Programs, including Retrofit Chicago, and Green Homes and Green Permit Programs.