2012 Lifetime Achievement Award: U.S. Congressman Jerry F. Costello

Herrin – The Lifetime Achievement Award at HerrinFesta Italiana is given annually to an individual who has achieved professional and personal success in their career and made a difference in their community.

Congressman Jerry F. Costello was first elected to the United States Congress 12th District in Illinois in 1988.  The 12-term Congressman has served on numerous committees of the House including Transportation and Infrastructure, Aviation Subcommittee as the Senior Democrat, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee: Railroad, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, Science, Space and Technology Committee – Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

He is recognized as a Congressman who works hard and gets the job done.  When he served in local public office, Costello laid out a vision for Southwestern and Southern Illinois which he took to Congress. His goal was to boost local economies by building a new transportation network in the region.  The respected Almanac of American Politics says that Costello is “as practical and district minded as any member of the House.  If it can be done, Costello will do it.”

He is a 1968 graduate of Assumption High School, East Saint Louis and graduated from Southwestern Illinois College with an Associate’s Degree in l971.  He received a B. A. from Maryville University in l973.  He has been awarded two Honorary Doctors of Laws degrees from Maryville University in l989 and McKendree University in 2009.

He worked in law enforcement during his years in college and then worked in administering the region’s court services system.   In l980 he was elected Chair of the St. Clair County Board, chief executive for one of Illinois’ largest counties.

Costello’s wife, Dr. Georgia (Cockrum) Costello was born in Herrin. Her family still operates a 4th generation family farm in Sesser.  The couple maintains their home here in Illinois.  They have three children, Jerry II (Gina),  daughter, Gina,  and John Patrick (Lindsay) and eight grandchildren.  All live in the Belleville area.  He comes home every weekend and holds numerous civic meetings, public forums and media events throughout the l2th Congressional District when Congress is not in session.

His wife is the President of Southwestern Illinois College.  Her extensive career in education has included positions as a teacher, school principal and Assistant Superintendent of the St. Clair County Regional Office of Education.  She remains active in volunteer organizations and community affairs.

Costello’s tenure in the House is characterized by a results-oriented, bipartisan approach to issues.   As a senior Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the second ranking Democrat on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, he has had a major role in writing major pieces of legislation, while focusing on improving the transportation infrastructure of the nation and his district and the research and development of clean coal technologies. This is critical to reinvigorating Illinois’ coal industry.

He secured $250 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge in the last highway bill.  He stands up for the constituents of the l2th Congressional District by casting tough votes on important issue.  From his seat on the Budget Committee he helped pass key deficit reduction legislation in l993 and l997 that resulted in the first balanced budget in a generation.

Costello has been recognized as “the patron saint of Scott Air Force Base”.  He is credited with saving Scott during rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process from l995-2005.  Scott AFB is the largest employer in Illinois south of Springfield and the fourth largest in the St. Louis region.

Costello represents Illinois’ 12th Congressional district, adjacent to the Mississippi River and extends from Alton to Cairo in the southwestern and southern part of the state.  Madison and St. Clair counties are partially industrial with areas of agricultural production.  In the l08th Congress, Franklin, Pulaski and a vast majority of Williamson Counties were added to the l2th district.

Congressman Costello wraps a lengthy and productive career of service in 2012. He decided not to seek re-election in October of last year.  “It has been a privilege and an honor to serve in the U.S. Congress for the past 23 years,” Costello said in a statement. “However, I said when I was elected in 1988 and many times since that I did not intend to stay in Congress forever as I had other interests that I wanted to pursue.”

He will be honored at the HerrinFesta Honoree Banquet on Tuesday, May 22 at The Herrin Elks Club Banquet Room on the corner of North l3th and East Monroe and ride in The Grand HerrinFesta Parade on Saturday, May 26.