Hockey great Wayne Gretzky often says that he never focused on where the puck was but rather where it was going. U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello shares that same forward-looking ability, and it is why he will be remembered as great advocate for Southern Illinois.
Costello steps down today after 24 years in Congress. Whatever you thought of his politics, there is no dispute that he used his vision and his political savvy to get results for his district.
When no one thought there would be federal money for a new Mississippi River bridge, Costello managed to secure $239 million for the project. When the Army closed the depot in Granite City, Costello arranged a new use for the property -- the Tri-City Port District. He helped secure funding for MidAmerica Airport, and when that didn't take off after years of trying, he helped persuade Boeing to open a facility there.
Scott Air Force Base was Costello's top priority. Not only did he help successfully steer the base through two rounds of closings but bolstered its mission by bringing new units there, adding future stability and hundreds of jobs in the process. Today Scott is considered one of the most important military bases in America.
Rep. John Shimkus, of Collinsville, called Costello the patron saint of Scott -- not something you'd expect to hear a Republican say about a Democrat. But Costello regularly made allies on the other side of the aisle. He understood that was the smart way to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
Earlier this year at a prayer breakfast Costello said of his relationship with Shimkus, "If Demo-crats and Republicans in Congress worked as closely as he and I do, the country would be a lot better off."
He's right about that. Not sure if it will ever happen, but there's no doubt that Southern Illinois is a lot better off for having had Costello and his work-together-for-the-common-good approach. We wish him good luck in his future endeavors.