CHICAGO - Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday chose the sister of retired Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) to replace her brother in the City Council despite the appearance of the nepotism that has long dominated Chicago politics.
Three days after the Chicago Sun-Times disclosed Monique Scott as the odds-on favorite, the retired alderperson’s sister got the call she had been waiting and hoping for.
It was Lightfoot delivering the news that Monique Scott, 50, was the mayor’s choice to fill the City Council seat that her younger brother occupied for more than seven years before stepping down to become director of industry and community relations at Cinespace Studios.
"Monique Scott has been a dedicated and active member of the North Lawndale community for her entire life," Lightfoot said in a news release.
"There is no one better suited to lead the residents of the 24th Ward at this critical time for recovery and development. … Monique has the resourcefulness and community connectedness to work across sectors to get things done."
Monique Scott was chosen over two other finalists recommended by a three-person screening committee and interviewed by the mayor last Thursday: Trina Mangrum, chief of staff to Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), and former Chicago Bulls player Wallace "Mickey" Johnson.
Lightfoot made history with her first City Council appointment. She chose Nicole Lee, Chicago’s first Asian American woman and the first Chinese American, to replace convicted Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th).
This time, the mayor will have to fend off questions about Machine-style political nepotism.
But the trade-off is that Lightfoot will now receive the still-formidable endorsement of Michael Scott Jr., who remains Democratic committeeman of the 24th Ward.
"There has been a considerable effort to invest on the West Side of Chicago. You talk about all of the things that have happened in the 24th Ward under my tenure. That could not have happened without this administration," Scott Jr. said.
"I don’t have a problem with making sure that work continues. I will be supporting who the 24th Ward alderman supports. And I would assume that she’s going to support the mayor."
Over the years, nepotism has been the steady drumbeat of Chicago politics. The Daley, Madigan, Burke, Mell, Lipinski, Pucinski, Vrdolyak, Stroger, Austin, Zalewski and Hynes families are just a few examples of political dynasties that have benefited from the friends and family plan.
If and when the nepotism argument is raised this time, Michael Scott Jr. is ready with his answer.
"If she was Monique Steward, which was her ex-husband’s last name, folks wouldn’t even question her abilities, her resume, her time served in the community and her plan for what she wants to do in the ward," Michael Scott Jr. told the Sun-Times on Monday.
"It would be equally unfair for her not to get a proper shot serving the community" because of her last name.
Monique Scott did not return repeated phone calls. In the mayor’s news release, Scott said, "Building on the work of the previous alderman, I will strive to bring economic development and safety to my residents."
She’s expected to take her City Council seat after rapid-fire confirmation votes by the Rules Committee on Tuesday and the full Council on Wednesday.
Monique Scott will then have a leg up on what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates in the aldermanic election in eight months.
Monique Scott followed in her father and brother’s footsteps by joining the Chicago Park District, where she’s now a supervisor at Ellis Park. Before that, she owned a woman’s clothing boutique in Lincoln Park, served as a UPS executive and spent 14 years as a health consultant for North Lawndale Christian Health Center.
She also coaches the North Lawndale Eagles cheerleading team.
Michael Scott Jr. was deeply disappointed when Lightfoot chose Rosa Escareno to replace fired Chicago Park District CEO Mike Kelly instead. Lightfoot had promised a nationwide search, which would have allowed Scott to pursue what he calls his "dream job."
This time around, he’s elated by the mayor’s choice. He has described his older sister as a "very passionate, kind and giving person" who would "give you the shirt off her back."
During Michael Scott Jr.’s nearly two terms as alderperson, the West Side ward decimated by the riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a bevy of development activity.
Michael Scott Jr. says his sister is uniquely poised to maintain that momentum, in part because he "wouldn’t allow her to miss a beat" — even if he has to "do double-duty."
"Your name can only open the door for you. You have to walk through the door and perform in order to stay in that room. She has the qualifications to walk in that door, not only sit in the room but work the room and make the room hers," Michael Scott Jr. said.
Ervin could not be reached for comment. He is arguably yet another example of the friends and family plan. His wife is City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin.
Michael Scott Sr. was an all-purpose troubleshooter for former Mayor Richard M. Daley who served as president of the boards overseeing the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District.