March 6, 2012

Law School alum throws down gauntlet for Fifth Ward post

William Godwin (J.D. ’10) is running for Democratic Committeeman of the Fifth Ward, challenging one of Hyde Park’s most established political figures and a longtime community activist.

Godwin’s opponents are the current alderman and committeeman, Leslie Hairston, and Anne-Marie Miles, who unsuccessfully challenged Hairston in last year’s alderman race. Even though Godwin said that the committeeman, who appoints judges and encourages voter turnout, has a largely administrative role, he emphasized that he feels as though it plays an essential role in the community.

“The key part is organizing people. It is getting people together, giving them a voice,” he said. “One of the biggest issues that we’re having on the South Side is that we have only senior citizens representing us.”

Without a voice that they can relate to in the community, Godwin felt that voters, especially young ones, feel disenfranchised.

“I think that it’s very disengaged, especially in South Shore. If we can turn this around, show that we can have an impact in elections, we can gain the attention of the city,” he said.

After earning his Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, Godwin interned with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., whose district includes part of the fifth ward. After graduating from the Law School, he spent one year at the Chicago firm McDermott, Will, and Emery before moving to his current position as the Executive Director of Workforce Partnerships at the City College of Chicago.

Aware that his youth could be seen as a weakness, Godwin instead described it as an advantage.

“That’s exactly what we need,” he said, “someone who isn’t ingrained in his ways, who’s flexible.”

While Godwin was optimistic about the continuing prosperity of Hyde Park, he noted that not all parts of the ward were thriving.

“Part of the ward looks like the Third World,” he said and emphasized the need for a focus on reducing crime.

Although Godwin praised current alderman and democratic committeeman Leslie Hairston’s voting record, he criticized her for not being clear with voters about interim appointments to city positions.

“The current process is very dark, it’s not transparent at all,” he said.

Hairston has failed, he said, at communicating with the residents of her ward. She has not, he said, been able to “work with constituents in a respectable way.”

Godwin criticized Anne-Marie Miles, another candidate in the race, because her husband, Emil Coccaro, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical School, is running for Republican Committeeman of the Fifth Ward.

“There is an issue with my opponent, [Miles], whose husband is running for Republican Committeeman. I think that there’s a conflict of interest,” he said.

The election for Democratic committeeman will be held on March 20.