Nearly five years ago, Brent Lewandowski, a Teamsters Local 700 member at the Cook County Department of Corrections (DOC), gave organized labor a voice after he was first elected to serve on the Cook County Pension Board. Today, he will be giving up his seat on the board and saying goodbye to his DOC family as he starts his new position on Monday as the Senior Benefits Manager for the Cook County Pension Fund.
Brent has spent the last 15 years at DOC – 10 as a correctional officer and five as an investigator – and was elected to the pension board as Trustee in 2011 and re-elected in 2014. During that time, he also served as a steward for five years and has been working in the DOC union office for the past year.
Both the 2011 and 2014 pension board elections brought out droves of DOC members and Cook County Clerks who were more than ready to cast a vote for Brent. Looking back, he says it was a team effort to ensure his victory and couldn’t have done it without the Teamsters behind him.
“From day one, the amount of support I received from the Teamsters was unparalleled,” said Brent. “The Teamsters really gave me the credibility I have today to do this job and to work with other elected public officials. Both Becky and Mike always believed in me and were proud to back me up during two successful elections. I can’t thank them enough and appreciate everyone for rallying around me.”
While serving on the pension board, Brent had many roles, including Vice President, Secretary and was the Chairman of the legislative committee and the investment committee. His election to the board also opened the doors for other labor activists to get on the board and serve in leadership positions.
The executive director of the pension fund was impressed with Brent’s experience and dedication to the members, and thought he would be the perfect person for the job. In his new position, Brent will face a more regimented schedule but is looking forward to helping people learn about their benefits and becoming an expert in the field. He will also have more free time to spend with his wife and three daughters.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” said Brent. “I am looking forward to focusing on this new job but I will miss the camaraderie I have with everyone at the Department of Corrections. It’s going to be really hard to leave. When you go through trying times with people, there is a bond that develops that is unlike any other. I’m going to miss the fight – being there for my fellow officers, knowing that they can count on me…and I can count on them.”
“On behalf of the Executive Board of Teamsters Local 700, we would like to congratulate Brent on his new position and we are confident he will continue to be successful,” said Becky Strzechowski, Teamsters Local 700 President. “His unwavering commitment to the union and his fellow brothers and sisters has been exceptional. Brent will always be a special member of the Local 700 family.”
Brent says though he is leaving, he will still be available for anyone who needs anything. “If I got a call from the union, a Teamster – anyone who needed help – it would put a smile on my face,” he said.