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Deb Mell Named New 33rd Ward Alderman

By  Patty Wetli and Ted Cox | July 24, 2013 7:25am | Updated on July 24, 2013 3:55pm

 State Rep. Deb Mell was appointed to succeed her father, Dick Mell, as alderman in the 33rd Ward.
Deb Mell Appointed Alderman
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CITY HALL — Deborah Mell succeeded her father, Richard Mell, as 33rd Ward alderman and was seated in the City Council Wednesday.

Making the announcement Wednesday morning from Horner Park, where Deb Mell once played Little League ball, Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed the new alderman as "someone with the character to fight for the residents of the 33rd Ward" and the "hunger and drive to get things done."

In accepting the appointment, Mell said she is "completely committed to demonstrating I'm ready to serve.

"I promise that you will be proud," she said. "I learned how to ride a bike on these streets. I learned how to drive a car on these streets. I couldn't be happier."

 Ald. Deb Mell accepts congratulations from Ald. Deborah Graham as she's seated in the City Council Wednesday.
Ald. Deb Mell accepts congratulations from Ald. Deborah Graham as she's seated in the City Council Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Emanuel also heralded Mell for bringing a diverse perspective to the council.

"Today City Council is breaking another glass ceiling in welcoming the first lesbian to City Council," he said.

In her brief comments to the press, Mell thanked her wife, Christin Baker, "who was up with me at like 2:30 this morning."

Dick Mell announced his retirement earlier this month and openly lobbied for his daughter to be named as his replacement.

A dozen residents of the ward, including Deb Mell, applied for the vacancy. Emanuel established a committee to review the candidates, saying she was not automatically entitled to the job.

Some community leaders had called for the mayor to appoint a placeholder who would have no interest in running for the seat in the 2015 aldermanic elections.

At Wednesday morning's press conference, Emanuel rejected that position. The city's issues were "too urgent to appoint a seat warmer," he said.

Deb Mell "should be judged on the facts," he said. "When her constituents see her in action, they like what they see."

Later, after the City Council meeting, he added, "Obviously, some people can't see past the name Mell. Other people can."

In the council meeting, aldermen voted 43-1 to confirm Mell's appointment. The dissenter was Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).

"We are not a monarchy," Fioretti said on council floor before the vote. "We are a democracy. So let's start acting like it."

But Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) defended Mell.

"There is no more qualified person than Deb Mell," Tunney said.

And Mell said the criticism she faces for being named to replace her father is motivating her.

"I know there are some critics out there," she said. "That just makes me work even harder."

Emanuel emphasized that later, citing her qualifications, record and character. "This is the right choice," he said. "In my view, Deb Mell has earned the right to be the next alderman.

"She has something to prove in the sense that she's not just gonna take it for granted," Emanuel added. "She doesn't expect to sail into the [2015] election for alderman. She expects to earn it. And that is exactly the attitude you want."

The 33rd Ward includes parts of Ravenswood Manor, Albany Park, Irving Park and Avondale.

"I love my area," Mell said on being confirmed by the council. "I'm really humbled and feeling a lot of emotion right now."