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Former IDOT manager picked to be new 7th Ward alderman

PDF: Holmes' applicatifor alderman

PDF: Holmes' application for alderman

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Updated: March 13, 2013 6:15AM

Calling it a “clean break” from the 7th Ward’s political past dominated by the Jackson and Beavers clans, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday appointed a former high-ranking state Department of Transportation official to replace Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th).

A former IDOT manager charged with coordinating transit and rail projects, Natashia Holmes, 37, has a masters degree in community planning as well as a law degree. She was elected to serve on a local school council, even though she is not married and has no children.

Holmes’ extensive background in transportation planning also includes stints at the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, the Metropolitan Planning Council and Metro Strategies, a firm that handled public outreach for the Chicago Department of Transportation’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.

During a news conference at the South Shore public library, Emanuel called Holmes enthusiastic, energetic and a “breath of fresh air,” who represents a “clean break from the past” dominated by the Jackson and Beavers families.

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. He was replaced by his daughter, Darcel, whom Sandi Jackson defeated in 2007. Jackson’s husband, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), signed a plea agreement last week on charges of misusing campaign funds.

“I plan on using, if not exactly this, a version of this [selection process] in the future because it is a break from the past. It is an attempt to take the politics of City Hall picking for a community out to give the community an actual role in the selection process,” the mayor said of his first aldermanic appointment.

“One of the things that I liked is that Natashia ran for the school board and she doesn’t have any kids in the school. It spoke volumes that she understood that one of the anchors in the community was the school and the education of our children.”

Holmes said she relishes the opportunity to represent the 7th Ward in City Council. But under repeated questioning, she refused to identify her priorities.

In her application for the aldermanic job, she 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.

“In every role that I’ve served, I’ve seen that the power of a community depends on the power of our partnerships,” Holmes said.

“I plan on working directly and extensively with community groups, religious institutions, neighborhood associations, small businesses, schools and anyone who has a vested interest in the future of the 7th Ward. I believe that by working together and giving everyone a seat at the table, we can accomplish great things. That’s why I applied for the position — because I think I can be the type of aldermen [who] brings people together and moves things forward.”

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. 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 from 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 bi-polar disorder with her demanding role as an alderman.

Holmes was one of 65 candidates who applied for the job and one of 48 interviewed by phone by a mayoral commission that conducted 25 in-person interviews before recommending four finalists to Emanuel.

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