From the City’s backstage…
Tony Cuzzone: The interesting man with four business cards
By Dee Longfellow
For The Elmhurst Independent
In his annual State of the City address, Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley always praises the staff, employees, managers and directors who work for the City of Elmhurst,, noting they do a good job without much recognition. The Independent hopes to change that.
This is the first story in an ongoing series that will appear in future issues of the Elmhurst Independent as we learn more about those who serve our City, what they do in their job as well as their free time. We hope you will enjoy learning more about those in public service in “From the City’s backstage…”.
There’s a guy in a beer commercial who claims to be “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” It’s a sure bet he’s never met Tony Cuzzone, an Elmhurst resident so interesting, he has to carry four business cards.
Cuzzone’s first business card says he is the City’s Public Water Supply Operator for the sewer and water system, responsible for its maintenance, along with the water meter shop. The City’s watermain replacement project has kept him busy as well as overseeing the water main valve and fire hydrant replacement project.
“I started the sewer lining for Elmhurst,” he told the Independent. “I’m in charge of storm water and sanitary sewer point repairs, spot repairs by dropping the TVs down into the pipe to pinpoint the problem.”
He does every step of the projects from the survey and topographic work, to putting plans together; he does the engineering and design, lists all the quantities and puts the project out for bid.
“Then I go through all the construction of projects, do the payouts and everything that goes with it, including residents’ complaints,” Cuzzone said. “I do a lot of neighborhood stormwater mitigation work so when we have neighborhood overland flooding, I’m the guy who goes into the neighborhoods and listens to everybody. Then we try to find out what happened, how did it happen, and how can we keep it from happening again.”
It can’t be an easy job to listen to disgruntled residents with flooded basements.
“I’m the negotiator, the peacemaker, they send me into neighborhoods where people are really hot, I’m almost lucky to come out alive,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just joking, of course, but people do get frustrated. I let the residents sound off, let them vent, and afterwards, you can see the relief in their eyes. Sometimes they just want someone to listen.”
Home and family
On the home front, Tony and his wife Marie will celebrate 38 years of marriage this coming June. Marie was a business manager of the surgery center at the Elmhurst Center for Health. She now works on accounts for both Edward and Elmhurst Hospitals.
They have a son Anthony who has been an Elmhurst police officer for just over ten years.
“He went to Marquette [University] and did some internships with us in engineering,” Cuzzone said. “After graduation he became the community service officer and then later became a ‘real’ full-time police officer.”
Connections help him at the Township
Beyond his work at the City, Cuzzone is also a York Township Trustee — the second business card — which is an elected position. His experience at the City comes in handy at the Township and vice versa. He helps oversee snow removal and paving in the Township. He said some areas of Elmhurst have been using a type of curbing he learned about as a York Trustee.
“Some neighborhoods don’t want sidewalks, but this [curbing] makes the area look a little more rural,” he said. “I’m proud that I can share municipal experience with the township. We overlap and do similar things. I have to approve the highway commissioner budget and the assessor’s budget. [York Township Highway Commissioner] Dick Schroeder runs that pretty much on his own, I don’t need to help much, but we approve his budget, so I look it over.”
Cuzzone serves as the liaison on the Senior Advisory Committee and the Transportation Committee for the Township Board.
“We’ve got our own transportation system,” he said. “If you are a senior in York Township, we will take you anywhere for a nominal fee. We have buses that take dialysis patients. The drivers are specially trained in case a person falls or something.”
A member of the York Township Republican Committeeman’s Organization, Cuzzone was recently elected Chairman.
“We help candidates who are running for office. These are the foot soldiers who go door to door and advise people on upcoming elections.” His brother Nick is a currently a Trustee for the Village of Villa Park.
Cuzzone spoke highly of former Mayor Thomas D. Marcucci.
“Tom Marcucci was instrumental in helping us get vehicles for the Township because he sat on the PACE Board. [Former State Representative] Bob Biggins was in on it too because he passed needed legislation. There are no grants available for townships, but you can have a bill sponsored.”
He met some resistance in the process, as some people thought Cuzzone was starting a regional transportation company.
“I assured people who called me that I was working for my own constituents. That was exciting. I was stepping on some toes, but I was getting my feet wet. You can’t be afraid to go after what you need.”
He shared a comical story.
“I remember one time a call came in [at the City] and I decided to go to the location myself. On my way there, I realized someone was following me. When I turned left, they turned left, if I slowed up, they slowed up. I thought to myself, maybe this person is lost or needs help. I turned onto a dead-end street and still the car was following me. Finally, I got out and walked back, wondering if the driver was lost. I walked up to the vehicle and the window rolled down…”
“Mayor on patrol, Tony!” said a smiling Tom Marcucci.
“He did that every once in a while,” Cuzzone said “He would follow us to places we were working and check things out. He was a really great guy to work with.”
Always on the scene at the Turkey Trot
The third of Tony Cuzzone’s business cards identifies him as President of the Board of Directors of the Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot.
“I work with the City staff, the police, fire and public works to coordinate the Turkey Trot every year,” he said. “When I first started with Dan [Gibbons], I opened the Knights of Columbus for registration. Then I became a course marshal, then got more involved with the operations part. Now, I set up the start line, finish line, I deal with the radios, street closures, getting an ambulance on site, contracting with Lima Lima, music and the sound, really, all the orchestration for the event.”
The opening ceremonies of the Turkey Trot are often touching, often bringing observers to tears. One year, Tony found himself on one of the cherry-pickers that lift workers high above the crowd.
“Once my wife Marie was up on one of the lifts and I was on another and we ended up almost even with one another, but high up in the air. The Spirito men were singing patriotic music and the Lima Lima crew did the fly-over. I looked over at Marie on the other lift and saw a tear coming down her cheek. Then she saw me and smiled — I had tears myself. It was cool, it was a special moment for us.”
As of just a few years ago, the revenues from the Turkey Trot far surpassed $300,000, which meant the organization had to file with the attorney general’s office and in doing so, were required to have a Board of Directors and officers.
“I was elected President of the DGTT Foundation,” he said. “We decided we needed more events besides the Turkey Trot, so we held a 100-hole marathon golf event and a Walk for Hunger at Elmhurst College.”
Then there’s the band…
As if that wasn’t enough, Tony carries one more business card — his fourth. He is the drummer in a band called Lake Effect.
“When I was in high school, I started playing the drums and took lessons for a couple of years,” he said. “I used to play the accordion — well, I’m Italian you know — but in high school I realized, there’s no place for an accordion here!”
Lake Effect has played for dances at The Abbey and for teen club dances. He joined a wedding band with whom he played for quite some time.
“We were once the back-up band for the Guess Who,” he said, his closest brush with fame.
He stopped playing for a while until he realized how much he missed it.
“I told my wife, it’s still in my blood and I love music, it feeds your soul to do it,” he said. “I put this band together and stayed good friends with Doug Beach [who heads the jazz program at Elmhurst College]. He helped us a lot.”
Lake Effect has played for Music at the Gazebo on Spring Road, at HB Jones, Villa Park Summerfest and the Normandy Room at the American Legion. This summer they are scheduled to play summer concerts in Villa Park, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. Lake Effect will also appear at Taste of Melrose Park on Friday night of that weekend.
The Independent asked if he’d ever like to be President of the United States.
“I’m not that good at Twitter,” he quipped.
With all that he does, Tony Cuzzone could easily be dubbed The Most Interesting Man in the World. But for now, he may just be The Most Interesting Man in Elmhurst — with the business cards to prove it.