CITY HALL — Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) has retired from the Chicago City Council.
After months — if not years — of speculation, the 75-year-old Mell submitted his letter of resignation to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday.
Although it's been widely discussed that Mell would seek to have his daughter Deborah Mell, a state representative, appointed in his place, and the mayor has praised her, Emanuel announced an online search to begin receiving applications Friday.
Under city rules, Emanuel will choose Mell's replacement.
"I am looking for a candidate with a strong background, solid ties to the community and a willingness to tackle the tough issues facing Chicagoans," Emanuel said in a statement.
Mell's resignation takes effect after the next City Council meeting July 24.
Mell was elected alderman in 1975 and soon became known as a character among characters. A vocal member of the so-called Vrdolyak 29 who blocked Mayor Harold Washington at every opportunity during the era known as Council Wars, Mell most famously climbed up on his council desk during the late-night session that saw Eugene Sawyer appointed mayor after Washington's death in 1987.
Mell was trying to get Ald. David Orr, the acting mayor, to recognize him so he could call a vote for Sawyer, to halt what amounted to a filibuster by Washington loyalists trying to prevent a vote. Yet it wasn't Mell but Ald. Edwin Eisendrath (43rd) who eventually called the vote after being recognized by Orr.
Mell was known for his bluster and for being a good quote — sometimes too good. He was open with Chicago Reader writer Gary Rivlin in discussing how the 29 white aldermen led by Ed Vrdolyak were blocking a $95 million bond issue just to deprive Washington a victory that might earn him popular support ahead of his 1987 re-election.
"There are some who believe that to get rid of Harold Washington is good government because we simply can't take four more years of him," Mell said, adding that perhaps "two years of not having this is worth 10 years of political stability in this city."
Mell was also known for bottling up progressive legislation as chairman of the Rules Committee, which has been called "where good legislation goes to die."
Mell is the father-in-law of now-imprisoned Gov. Rod Blagojevich and they publically fought when Blagojevich ordered the shutdown of a landfill owned by another Mell family member.
Blagojevich has said that comments Mell made about Blagojevich's campaign fundraising piqued federal investigators' interest and led to the former governor being criminally charged.
Mell's daughter, Patti, told the Tribune in 2009 that her father's comments alleging pay-to-play "certainly led to a lot of scrutiny on us personally."
On Wednesday, Emanuel said Mell "has served the City of Chicago and the 33rd Ward with distinction for nearly 40 years.
"In a city known for its colorful characters, Ald. Mell is a larger-than-life Chicago character who, just like the Billy Goat and Second City, is a Chicago institution and, in his own way, he has defined what public service and class look like," the mayor said.
"Always at his desk — sometimes on it — Ald. Mell has served the residents of the 33rd Ward well for nearly four decades. As a Chicagoan, as a colleague, as mayor and as a friend, I will miss him. Ald. Mell may be succeeded in the City Council, but he is a one-of-a-kind who can never be replaced," Emanuel said.