17 People — Including Lightfoot’s Zoning Board Chair — Apply to Fill Vacant 43rd Ward Chicago City Council Seat

Seventeen people applied to replace soon-to-be former Ald. Michele Smith on the Chicago City Council and represent the city’s 43rd Ward, including Timmy Knudsen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handpicked chair of the city’s Zoning Board, the mayor’s office announced late Friday.

Smith’s last day as a member of the City Council representing Lincoln Park as well as parts of Old Town and the Gold Coast is Aug. 12. Smith announced her resignation on July 21, adding to the list of wards who will elect a new alderperson in 2023.

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Lightfoot appointed a committee to review the applications and recommend Smith’s replacement. Its members are Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward), Mary Kenney, head of U.S. public affairs at BMO Financial Group, Tom Kotarac, senior vice president of the Civic Committee and Faraz Sardharia, president of the Wrightwood Neighbors Association.

That is the same system Lightfoot used to pick alderpeople to represent two South Side wards earlier this year. However, residents of the 43rd Ward were also asked to complete a brief survey about what they believed should be the highest priority for their new representative.

Cesar Rodriguez, the mayor’s press secretary, said the survey was created in response to feedback from residents of the 11th Ward, which includes Bridgeport, and the 24th Ward, which includes North Lawndale.

The city recorded nearly 800 responses to the survey, which was open to everyone regardless of whether they lived in the North Side ward and did not prevent the same person from completing it multiple times.

Those responses encouraged Lightfoot’s pick for the 43rd Ward to focus on public safety, amid a spike in violent crime, including carjackings, in and around downtown.

“Crime is the top issue facing the 43rd Ward. Residents do not feel safe,” wrote one respondent, according to the survey results.

Lightfoot appointed Timothy “Timmy” Knudsen as chairman of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in September 2020 and the City Council confirmed him in October 2020. 

Knudsen is on leave from his position as a partner at law firm Croke Fairchild Morgan & Beres and his position as the chair of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which determines whether to issue special use permits across the city and has jurisdiction over the location of cannabis dispensaries, according to a statement his campaign issued.

Knudsen, who touted his unpaid work on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers, also served as a member of Lightfoot’s campaign finance committee during the 2019 election. Crain’s Chicago Business included Knudsen on its 2020 List of Notable LGBTQ Executives.

After his confirmation as chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Knudsen released a statement that included a statement from Lightfoot lauding his “impressive professional portfolio that truly showcases his dedication to law, equity and civic engagement—values that are at the foundation of good governance” as well as his “immense amount of experience and enthusiasm.”

In 2019, Knudsen contributed $1,100 to Lightfoot's mayoral campaign and $1,500 to Derek Lindblom, who ran against Smith for the 43rd Ward seat on the the City Council. Smith prevailed with 54% of the vote. Lindblom did not apply to replace Smith.

Knudsen has already created a campaign finance committee that would allow him to raise money for the 2023 municipal election. He had not reported any contributions as of Sunday.

Other applicants include Brian Comer, the president of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association; Darren Taylor, a Chicago firefighter; and Tamar Newberger, whose husband, Andrew Schapiro, served as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic for former President Barack Obama. 

Three 43rd Ward residents who ran against Smith in 2019 are vying to replace her: Jacob Ringer, Rebecca Janowitz and Steve McClellan.

Whoever Lightfoot selects and is confirmed by the City Council will potentially get a leg up if they choose to run for a full term in February 2023 to represent the 43rd Ward.

The City Council must appoint a replacement by Oct. 12 — in the middle of the next aldermanic election, with nominating petitions due to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners no later than Nov. 28. The election is set for Feb. 28.

Smith’s replacement will be Lightfoot’s third appointment to the City Council — she tapped Ald. Nicole Lee (11th Ward) to replace convicted former Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson in April and Ald. Monique Scott (24th Ward) to replace her brother, former Ald. Michael Scott, Jr., whom the mayor tapped to serve on the Chicago Board of Education.

Smith is the fourth member of the Chicago City Council to announce they will not run for re-election next year, joining Ald. Harry Osterman (48th Ward), Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward) and Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward). Typically a close ally of Lightfoot, Smith is the chair of the City Council’s Ethics and Government Oversight Committee.

Smith’s decision to step down after three terms alongside Osterman and Cappleman will mean new leadership for most of the North Side neighborhoods along the lake, including Uptown and Edgewater. Ald. Tom Tunney, whose 44th Ward includes Lakeview, has not revealed his plans for 2023, but told the Chicago Sun-Times he is weighing a run for mayor.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) and Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) announced bids for mayor in 2023, and Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward) won the Democratic nomination for the 1st District seat on the Cook County Board of Review in June. 

Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) on Friday created a campaign committee that would allow her to raise money to run for mayor, but has yet to announce her plans. 

Smith was elected to the City Council in 2011, to replace former Ald. Vi Daley, who did not run for re-election after 12 years in office. Vi Daley, who is not related to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was a reliable supporter before Daley retired as mayor in 2011.

Smith earned $116,952 annually as alderperson of the 43rd Ward, which includes Lincoln Park, and parts of Old Town and the Gold Coast. Smith was re-elected to her third term in 2019.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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