As a first-generation American, Michael Cabonargi knows that our community only works when everyone has an opportunity to succeed. Mike’s father came to Highwood, Illinois from a mountain town in Italy with little more than the clothes on his back, and he found full-time employment in the service industry. He met his wife Francine while managing the dining room at a local country club. They worked hard their entire lives to ensure Mike and his brother had a roof over their heads and a good education.
One of the first people in his family to go to college, Mike graduated with honors from Miami University of Ohio. It was there – long before he would become an attorney and elected official – that Mike discovered his passion for advocacy. He and a small group of likeminded students fought to change the laws and policies so that his school could donate unused food to the needy in their community through a new Good Samaritan law. As Student Body President, Mike continued to fight for economic empowerment and social justice.
After college, Mike dedicated himself to public service, working as an aide to U.S. Senator Paul Simon and then U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, handling economic development initiatives to help ensure that Illinois families are always put first. Inspired by the power of people to make positive change through the law, Mike then attended the University of Illinois College of Law, where he received his law degree with honors.
After graduation, Mike was selected for a prestigious federal clerkship with the Honorable William Hibbler of the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. While a law clerk, Mike helped found the court’s first help desk for pro se litigants who represent themselves in court but still need guidance. For his leadership, Mike received the Award for Excellence in Public Interest Service from the Federal Bar Association and the U.S. District Court.
Mike left the courthouse for private practice before returning to public service as an award-winning senior attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, where Mike investigated and prosecuted fraud, insider trading, Ponzi schemes, and other offenses against innocent victims. During his time there, Mike passionately fought corruption and fraud, and his hard work made a difference. Mike received both the Chairman’s Award and the Directors Award for Excellence for his hard and smart work.
In 2011, Mike was appointed to and later elected to the Cook County Board of Review, where Mike has ensured Cook County families pay only their fair share in property taxes while also ensuring our schools, libraries, and local governments receive necessary funds on time.
Mike has made the Cook County Board of Review more transparent, open, and effective. His office has held more than 250 community outreach sessions to allow homeowners to appeal their property taxes in their own neighborhood in their own language. Mike obtained translations for his office’s tax appeal forms into Spanish, Polish, Korean, and other languages spoken by Cook County homeowners.
In 2015, Mike led the development of the Board of Review’s innovative digital appeals processing system that digitizes operations and removes the paper in the process. Now, more than 93% of appeals are filed online. The National Association of Counties recognized Mike’s digital system with an award for innovative, effective county programs that enhance services for residents.
Mike, his wife Erin and their teenage sons William and Jack are active members of their community, where the family continues Mike’s commitment to giving back through community service.