Pritzker boosts Riversider to chair of Illinois Commerce Commission

Carrie Zalewski moves to new role from state's Pollution Control Board

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By Bob Skolnik

Contributing Reporter

This story was updated April 19 to reflect Zalewski's promotion to chair of the ICC.

Riverside resident Carrie Zalewski was promoted to chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission less than three weeks after being appointed to the commission. Gov. J.B. Pritzker who appointed Zalewski to the ICC on March 29 named her as chair on April 16. Zalewski presided over her first meeting the next day.

The bipartisan Illinois Commerce Commission principally regulates utilities in the state. No more than three members may be of the same political party. Zalewski was appointed to a five-year term and is currently serving in an acting capacity until the State Senate approves her appointment.

The promotion to chair boosts Zalewski's pay to $134,022 from the $117,043 that an ICC commissioner earns. Zalewski, a Democrat and the wife of State Rep. Mike Zalewski will replace Republican Brien Sheahan as chair. Sheahan will remain on the ICC as a commissioner.

Zalewski had been a member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board since 2009 before resigning that position to serve on the Illinois Commerce Commission.

"I loved it," Zalewski said of her time on the pollution control board. "I felt it was time to move on to something different."

Her salary is more than her husband makes as a state representative. His salary is $67,836 plus a stipend of about $10,000 as a committee chairman. All of the salaries are set by state law.

The Illinois Commerce Commission typically meets twice a month, but members must do a lot of reading and research before meetings, said Victoria Crawford, a senior public information officer for the ICC.

"They're working all the time and there's policy sessions, it's a full-time position," said Crawford.

The pay for members of the Illinois Commerce Commission is less than what members of similar commission make in two neighboring states. Members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission are paid $122,455 a year, while members of the Iowa Utilities Board have an annual salary of $121,856.

"It's full time job," said Zalewski of serving on the Pollution Control Board and the Commerce Commission. "In the act it says that you can take no other outside employment."

Zalewski was appointed to the Pollution Control Board in 2009, one year after her husband was elected to the state legislature, by then-Gov. Pat Quinn and was reappointed once by Quinn and another time by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Zalewski, who grew up in Ottawa, is a lawyer by profession. She graduated from the Chicago Kent School of Law in 2004 and earned an undergraduate degree in general engineering from the University of Illinois in 2001. Before being appointed to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, Zalewski served as the assistant chief counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Zalewski said she is proud of her work at the Pollution Control Board, which hears enforcement cases brought by the Illinois Attorney General, especially her role in improving the water quality standards for the Chicago River.

"Every time I'm in Chicago and I get to walk by the river way and I get to see all this new business springing up by the river, I'm happy to have had a small part in it," Zalewski said.

Zalewski said she is excited to bring her environmental background to energy regulation.

The chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission welcomed Zalewski in a press release.

"Her wealth of knowledge on environmental issues, and expertise as an attorney, engineer and stat regulator will serve the Commission well," said Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Brien Sheahan

Sheahan, a former Republican member of the DuPage County Board, was appointed to the commission by Rauner in 2015. Before being appointed to the commission, Sheahan was counsel to Rauner's transition committee and he was deputy suburban director for Rauner's successful gubernatorial campaign in 2014.

Sheahan is also a past general counsel for the Illinois Republican Party. In 2010, Sheahan lost a Republican primary for state representative to Chris Nybo in a district that at the time included parts of Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker in March appointed Riverside resident Carrie Zalewski to be one of five members of the bipartisan Illinois Commerce Commission, which principally regulates utilities in the state.

No more than three members may be of the same political party. Zalewski was appointed to a five-year term and is currently serving as an acting commissioner until the State Senate approves her appointment. 

The Illinois Commerce Commission is a quasi-judicial body that approves electric and gas rates for utilities. It also regulates intrastate moving companies and certain transportation activities.

Zalewski, the wife of state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-23rd), had been a member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board since 2009 before resigning that position to serve on the Illinois Commerce Commission. 

"I loved it," Zalewski said of her time on the pollution control board. "I felt it was time to move on to something different."

The salary for a member of the Illinois Commerce Commission is $117,043 which is the same amount Zalewski was making as a member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board, which met 20 times last year. 

Her salary is more than her husband makes as a state representative. His salary is $67,836 plus a stipend of about $10,000 as a committee chairman. All of the salaries are set by state law.

The Illinois Commerce Commission typically meets twice a month, but members must be do a lot of reading and research before meetings, said Victoria Crawford, a senior public information officer for the ICC.

"They're working all the time and there's policy sessions, it's a full-time position," said Crawford.

The pay for members of the Illinois Commerce Commission is less than what members of similar commission make in two neighboring states. Members of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission are paid $122,455 a year, while members of the Iowa Utilities Board have an annual salary of $121,856.

"It's full time job," said Zalewski of serving on the Pollution Control Board and the Commerce Commission. "In the act it says that you can take no other outside employment."

Zalewski was appointed to the Pollution Control Board in 2009, one year after her husband was elected to the state legislature, by then-Gov. Pat Quinn and was reappointed once by Quinn and another time by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Zalewski, who grew up in Ottawa, is a lawyer by profession. She graduated from the Chicago Kent School of Law in 2004 and earned an undergraduate degree in general engineering from the University of Illinois in 2001. Before being appointed to the Illinois Pollution Control Board, Zalewski served as the assistant chief counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation. 

Zalewski said she is proud of her work at the Pollution Control Board, which hears enforcement cases brought by the Illinois Attorney General, especially her role in improving the water quality standards for the Chicago River.

"Every time I'm in Chicago and I get to walk by the river way and I get to see all this new business springing up by the river, I'm happy to have had a small part in it," Zalewski said.

Zalewski said she is excited to bring her environmental background to energy regulation.

The chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission welcomed Zalewski in a press release.

"Her wealth of knowledge on environmental issues, and expertise as an attorney, engineer and stat regulator will serve the Commission well," said Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Brien Sheahan

Sheahan, a former Republican member of the DuPage County Board, was appointed to the commission by Rauner in 2015. Before being appointed to the commission, Sheahan was counsel to Rauner's transition committee and he was deputy suburban director for Rauner's successful gubernatorial campaign in 2014. 

Sheahan is also a past general counsel for the Illinois Republican Party. In 2010, Sheahan lost a Republican primary for state representative to Chris Nybo in a district that at the time included parts of Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside.

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