Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Natashia L. Holmes will be the new alderman representing Chicago’s seventh ward.
A former Illinois Department of Transportation manager has been chosen by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th).
Natashia Holmes was one of dozens of candidates who applied to fill the job vacated when Jackson resigned last month.
Holmes could not be reached for comment immediately.
In her application for alderman, Holmes, who has a master's in community planning and a law degree, wrote that "undoubtedly — high instances of random acts of violent crimes, unemployment, the school drop-out rate and the lack of access to quality social and retail services relative to the density, population and economic make-up of the entire ward...are the most pressing issues for the 7th Ward..."
She was vetted by a mayoral commission that interviewed candidates and forwarded the list of three finalists to Emanuel. Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), the mayoral ally serving as the City Council's president pro tem, was one of the commission members.
The mayor's search was hampered by his determination to steer clear of anyone with ties to the two powerhouse political dynasties that have controlled 7th Ward politics for decades.
Former Ald. William Beavers (7th) is now a county commissioner awaiting trial on federal corruption charges. Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Il.) signed a plea agreement last week on charges of misusing campaign funds.
Holmes is Emanuel's first aldermanic appointment. The mayor has said he hopes that process he established in the 7th Ward will be a template for him to follow when future vacancies occur.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley filled a record number of aldermanic vacancies by appointment — including the wives, sons and daughters of retiring or deceased aldermen — before shifting to a process of accepting online applications towards the end of his 22-year reign.
Asked why he insisted on inviting all comers, Emanuel said, "If I just picked somebody, it's the mayor just deciding you're gonna have this loyal person…Somebody would say there is not community involvement. And I actually think the community should have an involvement, given that you don't really have an election. There's really no perfect plan. I put forward something I think will stand the test of time that will make sense of getting community input as you make a selection without an election because you can't at this time."
Jackson is the wife of disgraced former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned in late November amid a federal investigation of his campaign finances that, for the last year, has included questions about Sandi Jackson's finances.
Last month, Sandi Jackson resigned the City Council seat she has held since 2007, saying she could not balance her role as the wife of a former Congressman under federal investigation who is also suffering from bipolar disorder with her demanding role as a Chicago alderman.
Shortly after the resignation, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell reported that Sandi Jackson had a farewell meeting with her staff via telephone and all but declared her chief-of-staff Keiana Barrett as her successor.
"From an insider's point of view, Mayor Rahm may say he wants to have interviews; the people he will interview will be the people I am suggesting," Jackson told the gathering made up mostly of precinct workers.
"They are interviewing people in the community, but they do that to calm people down. People want to have their input. But for the most part, they turn that matter over to the alderman."
Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed has reported that Barrett was under consideration to replace Jackson's replacement until it was discovered that she doesn't live in the ward.
But Jackson told supporters that Barrett would be appointed after the residency issue is resolved.
"We are going to be able to move forward according to state law," Jackson said. "She understands how that aldermanic office works. She understands how the campaigning apparatus works ... She already has an existing relationship with the mayor and the mayor's staff," Jackson told the group.
Jackson also noted that all of the furnishings for her ward office at 71st and Exchange were bought with campaign dollars.
"That means the city does not own any of the furniture that you are currently sitting on, any of the furniture that is in the campaign office, any of the furniture that is in the aldermanic office. I bought every item personally, and if the mayor upholds my wishes, everything in that office will stay the same. Keiana will inherit everything," Jackson said.
Emanuel responded by saying Sandi Jackson was free to recommend successors, but she will not dictate her replacement.
"She can obviously submit names. We have something on-line. She has a computer with an Internet connection," the mayor said, noting that he's accepting online applications from those interested in succeeding Jackson.
Asked whether he would welcome Jackson's recommendations, Emanuel said, "If she wants to. Sure. I mean — everybody can. I put it online. You can submit names online. The board will then meet, talk, review" the applicants before recommending three finalists to the mayor.
But the mayor said, "There are conditions. You've got to live in the ward. You've got to have been there for at least a year. I think I'm familiar now with the residency requirement. And then, you've also got to also from there have other conditions. Those are kind of the primary [conditions]. But, then, what has been your community involvement? What warrants you being an alderman? That will be what the board reviews. [But], anybody can put names forward."
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