Interview: Wallace Goode, Fifth Ward Aldermanic Candidate
Goode, a former associate dean of students and a former director of the University Community Service Center, is focusing his campaign on public safety, education, economic development, and tenants’ rights.
Fifth Ward aldermanic candidate Wallace Goode has worn many hats, from Peace Corps volunteer to business developer to associate dean of students at the University of Chicago. Through it all, he has prided himself on his ability to understand the unique needs of anyone he meets, a trait that he hopes can carry him to victory in the election on February 28.
“I see [the Fifth Ward as] as diverse as any place I’ve ever worked because from Kenwood to Grand Crossing to South Shore to Hyde Park to Woodlawn, each community has a very different need,” Goode told The Maroon. “One of the things that I have really been blessed with is to never make the assumption about anybody until I’ve spent enough time listening to their values and what’s really important to them.”
A self-styled “son of Woodlawn,” where his family has lived for more than 60 years, Goode attended Mount Carmel High School from 1966 to 1970 before completing his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Elmhurst University in 1975 and earning a master’s degree in education from the University of Vermont in 1977.
Goode served two tours with the United States Peace Corps, doing community organizing in the Central African Republic from 1980 to 1981 and in the Solomon Islands from 1984 to 1986. During his tours, Goode worked alongside senior executives of various companies, helping them expand their operations internationally and teaching them about the culture and traditions of each country. Goode stated that his global perspective would help him build bridges between diverse constituents and think of new solutions to long-standing problems he would encounter as alderman.
“When I think of having lived and worked in Central Africa, and having lived and worked in the Solomon Islands, I think of what I learned from [community] leaders, and how they approach problems differently than we historically have,” Goode said.
Goode then returned to Chicago, where he was involved in city government between 1997 to 2004. He was the director of Richard M. Daley’s Workforce Solutions Division; assistant commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development; and, finally, executive director of the Empowerment Zone program, a role through which he helped distribute nearly $150 million in federal and state funds to more than 300 community groups.
He has also served as a dean at four different universities: Allegheny College, Earlham College, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago. Upon becoming an associate dean of students at the University in 2005, Goode also became the director of the University Community Service Center (UCSC), a group that matched students with community service opportunities. Under his leadership, the number of community service registered student organizations (CSRSOs) more than doubled to 75. Goode served as the advisor to all 75 CSRSOs until he left the University in 2011.
“Working at the [UCSC] was an exciting way of fulfilling two needs at once—the need for resources from community-based organizations and the need for experiential learning from University students,” Goode said.
Goode believes his experiences at the University, which is located within the Fifth Ward, will enable him to expand and strengthen its partnerships with South Side organizations. He identified incoming vice president of civic engagement Christian Mitchell, Logan Center for the Arts executive director Bill Michel, and executive director of community partnerships Wendy Walker Williams as past partners whose knowledge he could leverage as alderman.
Goode believes that in the past decade, the University has integrated itself more with the communities surrounding it, a pattern he expects to see continue.
“The University has done pretty much a major turnaround from the institution of old when I was there,” Goode said. “They have already demonstrated a commitment to play an active role in the community in the Fifth Ward. So it’s exciting to have them on board.”
Upon becoming executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce (HPCC) in 2011, Goode moved from Woodlawn to Hyde Park. He resigned from the position after 11 years on June 30, 2022, and launched his aldermanic campaign the following day.
In a statement announcing Goode’s resignation, HPCC president Troy Ratliff said that Goode nearly doubled membership and “establish[ed] the Chamber as a major resource for the Hyde Park business community.”
When Goode first promoted his candidacy, he told the Hyde Park Herald, “I don’t know what my policy issues are yet.” But seven months and countless conversations with ward residents later, Goode has an acute sense of what he wants to tackle.
“I went to almost every coffee shop in the Fifth Ward because I wanted to get the ambience of what happens in a coffee shop in a community,” Goode said. “I hit many of the bars so that I got a sense of the crew that hang out there, and so I got a very good sense of the community. Many were folks who were engaged in their community but maybe not necessarily interested in going to forums or checking out my profile online but were very open and willing to have dialogue over coffee or over beer.”
In the wake of these conversations, Goode identified affordable housing, public safety, economic development, education, and the environment as the ward’s most important policy issues. For each, Goode listed out specific policies he would implement to help improve the lives of local residents. For example, in terms of education, Goode hopes to revamp public school curricula to become “more holistic” and to teach skills “beyond the classroom.”
“In a very small microcosm, we need to define what academic excellence looks like and then reverse-engineer it back to the elementary schools,” Goode said. “When I look at the Fifth Ward, I think of an incredible space with incredible people that will be honored to help manage and facilitate an economic educational rope that can improve the quality of life for residents. I’m excited about it.”
Goode posits that improving education and job training could also reduce violent crime.
“Why aren’t we focusing on education to help mitigate the violence problem?” Goode asked. “And we need to develop employment opportunities so that there are alternatives to the streets.”
Goode also advocated for tenant rights during the interview, pledging to investigate companies that manage apartment buildings. He mentioned recent high-profile incidents in and near the Fifth Ward attributed to management neglect, including a fire at a Kenwood high-rise in January that killed a resident and a days-long power outage at Hyde Park’s Algonquin Apartments in December 2022.
“Why do we put up with these companies that treat residents with disrespect?” Goode asked. “I raise concern with the management companies and how they’re taking care of our citizens.”
If he wins the aldermanic race, Goode hopes to build a think tank of community leaders to work on addressing each neighborhood’s needs. The ideal members? His opponents.
“When I become the alderman, the first week I’m in office on Monday, I will reach out to each of the candidates who’s in the race to help form a cabinet,” he said. “If you go to any of the [aldermanic] panels, the suggestions coming from all of these candidates are great.”
At the HPCC, Goode worked primarily with finances. Now, leading up to the February 28 elections, Goode is working primarily with the people around him—from University students to community volunteers—to get him the job he wants next.
“Volunteers are stepping up every single day. We get more and more saying that they want to work on the campaign, including a number of University of Chicago students,” Goode said. “The campaign is going well. I think it has followed the strategy of relying on human capital rather than financial capital, and I think that’s going to carry us across.”
To all those he meets—whether they be students, community members, or former co-workers—Goode simply asks them to “spread the word.”
“Share my name,” Goode said. “Spread the word that I’m a negotiator, a bridge builder, a conductor on the Underground Railroad of 2023, and that I’m committed to writing our story.”