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Deb Mell's Replacement Takes Pay Cut to Join General Assembly

By Ted Cox | August 13, 2013 2:56pm
 State Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr. says he'll work for community groups and not just former Ald. Richard Mell.
State Rep. Jaime Andrade Jr. says he'll work for community groups and not just former Ald. Richard Mell.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The man appointed by former Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) to replace his daughter Deb Mell in the General Assembly says he'll be taking a pay cut as a state representative — at the cost of the Disney Channel to his young children.

Jaime Andrade Jr. said he's making almost $90,000 a year as a longtime Mell staffer and assistant sergeant at arms on the City Council floor. What will he make as a Springfield legislator?

"Right now, zero," the 40-year-old Andrade told reporters at City Hall Tuesday, joking however briefly about the pay halt imposed by Gov. Pat Quinn until the state government achieves meaningful pension reform.

Pay for a state representative is slated at $67,000, not counting 12 furlough days next year that cut an additional 5 percent from the salary.

"So, it's a substantial pay cut," Andrade said. "We already started adjusting."

First to go in the family's Irving Park home was cable TV, replaced by an over-the-air antenna, so his two kids are making the switch from Disney Junior to the PBS Kids programming on WTTW-TV Channel 11.

Yet while Andrade is first to insist he's received no guarantees, he's eager to embark on a new career in public service as an elected official, and his wife approved what could be a risky transition.

"The election is right around the corner," he said of the primary next March. "I know it could be temporary. I'm not in it for the money.

"I have six months to prove myself," he added.

In that, he said, he'll be building on the ties he formed with community groups as a 20-year Mell staffer. Key issues in Albany Park are housing and education, but the 40th District he now represents after being appointed Monday by ward committeemen — Richard Mell first and foremost — is "very diverse," he said, and "every community has a different issue."

He said he'll have to strengthen ties with Old Irving and Avondale residents in the western part of the district, where he's not as well-versed. But "these people will know I'm still committed and will remain committed to work with them," he said.

Andrade will also follow Deb Mell, who stepped up to replace her father upon his retirement in the City Council, in supporting marriage equality.

"I have no right to tell anyone else who they fall in love with," Andrade said, adding he has family relations who are gay with partners. "It's no one's business to tell someone who they can marry or not."

Yet otherwise he says he'll be his own man in the General Assembly, and said Richard Mell never called on Deb Mell or, before that, John Fritchey, now a Cook County commissioner, to vote a certain way on a given issue.

"They might say, 'Oh, you're Mell's person.' But I'm gonna work my hardest to prove that I'm not just Mell's person," Andrade said.

He added that he was working for a political opponent of Mell's when he was first recruited by Mell's staff 20 years ago as someone who had proven to be "a thorn in our side."

"No one sent me to Mell," Andrade said. "I come from a working family, immigrant family. I worked my way up. No one called for me. No one made a call. The alderman believes I deserve a shot, and he understands that come March I could lose the election."