Mayor Appoints Sophia King New Fourth Ward Alderman

Some locals plan to campaign for an independent candidate.

By Sonia Schlesinger

Kenwood resident Sophia King was appointed fourth ward alderman by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday. She will serve as alderman until February 2017 when a special election will be held for the remaining two years of the term. King is replacing former fourth ward Alderman Will Burns, who resigned in February to work for Airbnb.

Following Burns’ surprise resignation, Emanuel announced that, with the help of a committee, he would oversee an application process and select an interim alderman by the end of April to serve until next February. King has already raised $30,000 for her February campaign.

Emanuel chose King from 18 candidates who applied for the position. She has lived in the fourth ward for nearly 30 years, and served on the Kenwood Park Advisory Council for seven years. She is the president and founder of Harriet’s Daughters, a group of women working to bolster employment opportunities in African-American communities, and plans to focus on increasing such opportunities in the fourth ward. She is also friends with the Obama family, who lived in Kenwood for many years, and was involved with his 2008 campaign.

The mayor expressed confidence in King’s ability to serve the fourth ward community, which includes parts of Hyde Park, Kenwood, Bronzeville, and the South Loop. “For almost 30 years, Sophia King has not just lived in the 4th ward, she has worked to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives there,” Emanuel said in a statement about the selection. “She will be a tireless advocate for her constituents as she serves on City Council.”

King herself is excited to serve as alderman in the coming months. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to collaborating with all the people who want to make a difference in the city that I love…I appreciate the confidence of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his willingness to engage a new voice.”

Woodlawn resident and former Hyde Park Herald editor Gabriel Piemonte is concerned that King’s work is limited to Kenwood and that she has not gotten to know other fourth ward residents. “I think it’s awesome that in our ward you can say ‘my neighbor is the president and he likes me so you should like me too,’ but my worry is that this is exactly what happens with a top-down process,” he said. “The wealthiest, most influential people have access to decision-makers like the mayor and are able to make a stronger case in terms of what the Mayor appreciates which is money and power, not grassroots.”

Piemonte is organizing a group of fourth ward residents hoping to endorse a candidate for the February election that has not been chosen by the Mayor. They have met twice so far to discuss issues they hope to see their chosen candidate take on, and hope to endorse a candidate by August.