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Wicker Park Alderman's Spokesman Leaves Post to Teach in Pacific Island

By Alisa Hauser | July 8, 2014 5:28am
 After seven years, Matt Bailey, a staffer, communications and legislative affairs director in Ald. Joe Moreno's (1st) office, is moving on. Bailey's last day at work was Thursday.
Matt Bailey Moving on After Seven Years Serving the First Ward
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WICKER PARK — After seven years of serving constituents in the city's 1st Ward, Matt Bailey became very familiar with the most important issues on a local level: "Trees, garbage cans and rats,'' he says. 

But Bailey said the larger issues such as Ald. Joe Moreno's decision to block a Chick-Fil-A from opening in the ward were among the highlights of the 31-year-old's stint as spokesman.

"He took a stand for what he believed in," Bailey said of Moreno.

Moreno returned the compliment Monday, saying Bailey was a "creative guy" who shared the alderman's do-it-yourself mantra and whose writing "challenged the norm."

Enjoying a beer on the patio of Green Eye Lounge at 2403 W. Homer St. in Logan Square on his last day of work last week, Bailey, director of legislative affairs and communications for Moreno, acknowledged that his resignation just months before the 2015 Mayoral and Aldermanic election was "not the most convenient time."

 Matt Bailey, Rocio Varela and Raymond Valadez.
Matt Bailey, Rocio Varela and Raymond Valadez.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

"I'm sure by pure convenience they'd rather me be there and wouldn't have to train anyone new, but it will be good to have a change of pace. These past seven years are the longest I've spent anywhere," Bailey said.

Later this month, Bailey, his wife and the couple's two young children are moving to an island in the Pacific Ocean where Bailey has secured a job teaching high school English and world history in Marshall Islands' capital, Majuro.

Known for being a social media savvy alderman, Moreno's virtual voice was often the work of Bailey, who earned $40,368 per year according to the City's employee roster, and managed Moreno's social media presence among several other duties.

While Moreno, 41, enjoys using Facebook and often messages constituents directly, Bailey was the primary person behind Moreno's Twitter account, which has more than 6,000 followers.

"Twitter is a good resource to see what people are talking about. It's the primary thing we use to reach people. We don't update our website as much because it's kind of static and there is no conversation," Bailey said.

Bailey said he and Moreno shared similar values, upbringings and priorities.

"It was easy to be [Moreno's] spokesman," he said.

Originally from England, Bailey moved to Chicago in 2007 with his wife, now an English teacher at the Cook County Jail.

"I was always kind of jealous of people that lived in a lot of different places all over the world. This is the best way to make it happen and to give our children that opportunity," he said.

Bailey started his career as an intern working for former Ald. Manny Flores (1st) in 2008. He described Flores as "a tough boss who would expect a lot."

Bailey recalled being asked by Flores to drive garbage carts to people's homes and even assist the ward superintendent with pulling a bat out of a resident's toilet.

Bailey began working for Moreno in 2010 when the longtime Wicker park resident and printing company executive was appointed to the role after Flores resigned to serve as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.

In contrast to Flores, Bailey described Moreno as "more of a laissez-faire" leader who "gives you a longer leash."

"I didn't have to go to him for every decision," Bailey said of Moreno, though clarified that the jobs he held with Flores as an aldermanic aide and with Moreno were "very different and not comparable."

"This is the only spokesman job I ever had, my frame of reference is limited," Bailey said.

On a local level, Bailey said the biggest issues were "trees, garbage cans and rats." But he said Moreno tackled larger issues, too.

In addition to the plastic shopping bag ban, which stemmed from an ordinance introduced by Moreno two years ago and was recently passed by City Council in April, Bailey said he is proud of Moreno's controversial decision to block Chick Fil-A, operated by a founder who opposes gay marriage, from opening in Logan Square in 2012.

Given "free reign" by Moreno to create his own job title, Bailey described his job as a mixture of constituent issues, dealing with press, answering phones, social media, and helping out with parking permits and other issues.

On Thursday, Moreno tweeted a photo of himself, Bailey and Chief of Staff Raymond Valadez.

"Today is 's last day at my office, before he moves to the Marshall Islands. Bon voyage, amigo," Moreno tweeted.

"I'm happy for him. Obviously he is doing something he wants to do. But I'm also sad to see him go," Moreno said.

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