CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday chose Natashia Holmes, a former state employee, as the new alderman for the 7th Ward.
"I have no doubt in my mind that Natashia is the right person for this job," the mayor said at a news conference announcing the appointment.
The opportunity to serve the 7th Ward is exciting, said Holmes, who added that she looks forward to serving for a long time.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and one that I look forward to," Holmes said.
First priority for Holmes is to get a grip on the violence plaguing her Far Southeast Side ward, she said.
"I plan on meeting with community groups to get a sense of where we are and what needs to be done," said Holmes, who begins her new job Wednesday.
Holmes replaces Sandi Jackson, who resigned last month, she said, to spend more time with her family. Her resignation came as her husband, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., was under investigation by federal prosecutors for the alleged misuse of campaign funds. Sandi Jackson, too, reportedly is a part of the investigation.
Holmes is a project manager at Metro Strategies, a private firm which consults with government agencies on planning, policy and public affairs.
"We're excited and fully support her," said Seema Wadia, a senior project manager with Metro Strategies.
Emanuel said more than 65 people applied for the position, and 48 met the requirements. All 48 received a phone interview, and 25 received an in-person interview.
The mayor noted that for years the 7th Ward has been represented by a member of the Beavers or Jackson political dynasties. He said Holmes' appointment marks a new day, when political families are taken out of the equation.
Before her current job, Holmes worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation in the division of Public and Intermodal Transportation, according to her online bio. She coordinated transit and rail programs for the division, and worked with "national organizations to develop policies and programs that support public transit, freight, passenger and high-speed rail initiatives," her bio states.
Holmes earned a bachelor's of science degree from Alabama State University, a master's of Community Planning from Auburn University in Alabama and a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law. In her application for the vacant aldermanic seat, Holmes noted unemployment, the school dropout rate, lack of access to social and retail services and "high instances of random acts of violent crime" as the most pressing issues facing the 7th Ward.
Holmes said she does not have a single set of ideas to address the "myriad of problems" but did give some indication of what actions she would pursue. Holmes said she would seek to empower community organizations that engage residents, work to establish a "small business incubator" to help draw entrepreneurs and try to establish "technology-based job training centers" in the ward.
In the application, Holmes said she owns a home in the 7th Ward and was "purposeful" in choosing to live in her community.
"I see the value and opportunity that makes the 7th Ward a jewel of the City of Chicago," she wrote.