The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

New 24th Ward Alderman Scott Jr.'s Path to Politics Began at Age 9

By Stephanie Lulay | April 9, 2015 6:37am
 24th Ward alderman-elect Michael Scott Jr. (l.) and Scott's father, Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott Sr., who died in 2009.
24th Ward alderman-elect Michael Scott Jr. (l.) and Scott's father, Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott Sr., who died in 2009.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

NORTH LAWNDALE — It wasn't Michael Scott Jr.'s politico father who gave him his first schooling in aldermanic duties. Not directly, anyway.

"Who was it, Bill Henry?" Scott Jr. asked a senior supporter outside of his victory party Tuesday night, referencing the former 24th Ward alderman and Soul Cola pioneer.

Fast forward 30 years, and Scott is now standing in Henry's shoes.

Scott, a Chicago Park District manager, is set to become the next 24th Ward alderman after garnering 67 percent of the vote in the runoff race Tuesday. His challenger Vetress Boyce, a general contractor and second-time candidate, received 33 percent.

Even before the polls closed Tuesday night, Scott predicted he'd win big in the 24th Ward.

 Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and alderman-elect Michael Scott Jr. (24th) pose for a photo Tuesday.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and alderman-elect Michael Scott Jr. (24th) pose for a photo Tuesday.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

"I did expect a big win. We did everything we needed to do to be in this position, we worked diligently to make sure our message got out," he said.

Stephanie Lulay says it's been a big year for Scott:

West Side Legacy 

While the runoff race was Scott's first jump into city politics, the 39-year-old rubbed elbows with aldermen from a young age, he told DNAinfo Chicago after his victory.

Scott is the son of former Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott Sr., an ally of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Scott Sr. died of an apparent suicide in 2009. Scott Jr.'s palm cards Tuesday read: "A name you know ... someone you can trust."

At the time of his death, Scott Sr.'s board of education role carried a lot of clout. But over his 30-year career in politics, he served in a number of other influential roles, including as president of the Chicago Park District Board, the city's director of special events and as a campaign manager to Daley, fostering key black votes for the Bridgeport mayor. In newspaper articles, the elder Scott's resume was often abbreviated to two words: "political operative."

At times, Scott Sr. was at the center of controversies, too, including a federal investigation into admissions at Chicago's selective enrollment high schools, a school district investigation into how board members used credit cards and questionable real estate developments that had ties to Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid.

His mother was a force in the 24th Ward, too, Scott Jr. said. Millicent, served as 24th Ward superintendent for more than 20 years. His grandmother, Dion Scott, was part of the push in the 1970s to improve education in the ward, eventually forcing Mayor Richard J. Daley — father of  Richard M. Daley — to build Collins High School in North Lawndale, he said.

The Scott family legacy certainly played a part in his election, he admits.

"I don't shy away from that," he said. "I like to say I have [had] a lifelong internship in the political realm and political life."

Growing up in North Lawndale, Scott said his father tried to shelter him. Despite the elder Scott's good intentions, there weren't many at City Hall who didn't know Scott Jr. was his father's son, he said.

"If you look at him, and you looked at myself, there is no way that the players didn't know who I was," he said. "And my father had very great relationships across the city."

One of Scott's early memories of meeting the key political players in his neighborhood came at age 9. At a ward party with his family, the adolescent Scott had a question for then-Ald. Bill Henry.

"I'm like, 'What does an alderman do?'" Scott said.

An alderman helps people, builds the ward, Henry told him.

"I said, well, I want your job," Scott remembered. "I never thought, in a million years at 9 years old that this would come to fruition [30 years later], but it has."

The newly elected Scott also has early memories of longtime former Ald. Ed Smith (28th), whom he met when he was 5, Finance Chairman Ed Burke, and of course, Daley, too.

Scott said he was asked several times in the past to run for the West Side aldermanic seat, but it was never the right time. But when current Ald. Michael Chandler announced plans to step down last year, Scott took it as a sign. It was his time, he said.

The last year has brought a number of changes into Scott's life — a new marriage, a new baby and now, a new job.

A father of three children — ages 10, 4 and 7 months old — Scott lives with his wife, attorney Natashee Scott, at 16th Street and Albany Avenue.

Council allies

Scott is not as close to newly re-elected Mayor Rahm Emanuel as his father was with Daley. He called his relationship with Emanuel "cordial."

"We're not close, but I think we'll have a great working relationship," he said. "I want to make sure my community is getting everything [it needs]. Sometimes we won't agree on things, sometimes we will."

Is the 24th Ward, that includes parts of North Lawndale, Garfield Park and South Austin, getting everything it needs to succeed now?

"No. No we are not," Scott said. "Not by any stretch of the imagination. I'm going to push as much as I can."

Scott said his first priority is to clean up the ward — literally.

"Our ward is so unkept, it's so unclean," he said. "I want our community to have pride in cleaning up the neighborhood, that's the first thing I want to do."

Improving the neighborhood's economic base, schools and relations with cops are also top concerns. Scott said he wants Rahm to hire more cops, "but we have to be responsible in finding the money." 

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who helped fundraise for Scott, was among the first to congratulate the Alderman-elect on his win.

Scott also counts longtime Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle among his close allies. 

While his father never pressured him to go into politics, Scott said his dad would be "very proud" of his win.

"My father ... he never pushed me to do anything. He always wanted me to think through my choice, to make a thoughtful choice, to do it and do it well," Scott said. "And because I did that, I think he would be happy and be smiling right now. I think he would be very proud."

Scott and Boyce landed in the runoff after 10 contenders split the vote for the open seat in February.

In the municipal general election, Scott was also the front runner, securing 30 percent of the vote.

In December, incumbent Ald. Michael Chandler announced he would not run for a fifth term. He served three terms, but was beaten by Sharon Dixon in 2007. In 2011, facing a crowd of 18 candidates, Chandler won his seat back, ultimately defeating Dixon in a runoff.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: