Ald. Mell could be stepping down after 38 years on City Council - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Ald. Dick Mell calls reports of retirement from City Council premature

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It could be the end of an era in Chicago politics - if it's true. After months of speculation, Ald. Mell may be ready to step down from City Council. But he called reports circulating Friday premature.

"You know, every year I give thought to stepping down, as a lot of my colleagues do," Ald. Mel told FOX 32's Mike Flannery on the phone. "But, you know, I've got several things in the community I want to get accomplished. And, you know, someday I'm sure I will. I can't see it happening in the near future."

"Near future?" The leader of the North Side's most powerful ward organization wouldn't define it. As he talked with FOX 32 News, he said he and other family members were en route to a vacation home north of Chicago.

Now at the age of 75, Mell has represented Chicago's 33rd ward since 1975. He tells FOX 32 that he hasn't sealed a deal with Rahm Emanuel, but the mayor would appoint any replacement should he retire before his term expires in 2015.

Longtime friends said Mell's told them he wants daughter Deborah to replace him in the City Council. The openly gay state representative was busy at the State Capitol this week, lobbying other legislators to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois. A breast-cancer survivor, she and partner Christin Baker have been together for several years.

Overall, the reaction would be very positive from both City Hall and some state representatives that work with Deb Mell, should the report ever come to fruition.

Ald. Bob Fioretti of the 2nd ward says that based on the 38 years of work Ald. Mell has done and his opinion of the alderman's daughter, State Rep. Mell would be a great choice.

"Hopefully, she can bring to the table the right kind of conversation we need address improving our education in our schools, and secondarily - all of them are important - addressing the violence that we have in our streets, and what we need to do about them," Fioretti said.

"Would my daughter be a good alderman?" Mell asks in response to the same question. "I think, if she wants it. I think there are a lot of people who would be good for alderman"

Ill. Rep. Ken Duncan admitted the General Assembly would be losing a great asset, should Rep. Mell take over representation of the 33rd ward.

If she does get to City Council, Rep. Mell would make history as the first lesbian on City Council and the first openly-gay member.

Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda said the group has faith that Rep. Mell would represent her constituents well, should she become and alderman, and that it would be a historic moment.

The mayor said the Sun-Times report that it's an all but done deal was premature.

"Deb Mell has done a tremendous job on her own as a state rep," Emanuel says. "And, wherever she goes in public service, she's gonna be an addition. That said, no decision's been made by Dick Mell."

There's another reason some expect Mell to retire soon. His wife, Marge, died 6 years ago and he recently got engaged to another woman. He's told friends he's ready for big changes.

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