Updated: June 25, 2013 6:25AM
For decades, one of the most important political jobs in Illinois has been held by a series of men most of us never heard of.
These men, successive U.S. attorneys for the northern district of Illinois, have wielded considerable power to do good — to prosecute corrupt public officials, to go after the Outfit, to take down street gangs.
And, thankfully, Illinois has largely been blessed by a steady stream of excellence in that office.
Next up, if all goes as planned, is Zach Fardon. President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated the former federal prosecutor for the job.
By all measures, Fardon, a key member of the U.S. attorney’s team that won the conviction against former Gov. George Ryan, is an excellent choice. He’ll face a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, where we’ll learn more, but he has the makings of a strong leader.
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who stepped down last year after an extraordinary 10-year run, called Fardon’s selection “great news.” He told the Sun-Times that “Zach is a wonderful person, a great lawyer and a natural leader.”
Fitzgerald, Fardon’s former boss, set a new bar for excellence and independence in that office. His stamp of approval carries tremendous weight.
Upon his retirement, we listed the qualities we’d like to see in a successor. Fardon lines up exceptionally well.
A humble yet fierce prosecutor, Fardon is widely respected and known for his sharp wit and ability to think quickly on his feet. Now in private practice, he’s worked as a defense attorney, a turn that can help prosecutors better appreciate the government’s immense power to make and break suspects.
The U.S. attorney’s office is the last and often only refuge for political corruption prosecutions. It’s one of the most important offices you’ve never heard of — but one where we all see the results.