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Denied a Second Term, 'I'm Leaving Office on a High Note,' O'Connor Says

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) laugh at a 2013 news conference.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) laugh at a 2013 news conference.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

EDISON PARK — Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) will spend Monday — her last day in office — relishing her achievements and looking forward to the next phase of her life.

"I'm proud of what I've accomplished," O'Connor said. "I'm leaving on a high note, with quite a legacy. I think I've accomplished more than almost any other one-term alderman."

O'Connor — whose loss shocked many political observers and leaves Mayor Rahm Emanuel without one of his most stalwart allies on the City Council — said she was disappointed by her defeat at the hands of former Chicago firefighter Anthony Napolitano, who will be sworn in Monday.

"But that's politics," O'Connor said. "I'll move on. There are many more things I want to accomplish."

In her final email to constituents, O'Connor said serving as alderman from 2011-15 had "been the honor of a lifetime."

As she did during the campaign against Napolitano and businessman Joe Lomanto, who finished third, O'Connor touted the more than $100 million invested in 41st Ward schools, roads, bridges, parks, sewers and utility infrastructure during her term.

"I know one thing for certain — I am handing off the 41st Ward to your next alderman in far better shape than when I first became alderman," O'Connor said.

Former Ald. Brian Doherty, who represented the 41st Ward from 1991-2011, campaigned for Napolitano, who promised to be an independent voice on the City Council.

O'Connor declined to discuss whether her support of the mayor and their close relationship helped or hurt her campaign.

"The loss was caused by many different things," O'Connor said, declining to discuss in detail the "political autopsy" she conducted with her team after her to loss to Napolitano by 615 votes. "I want to stay positive."

At the top of O'Connor's new to-do list is finding a new home for O'Connor's Market and Deli, which closed May 1 when a new owner bought its building, and continuing to run her catering business, Unforgettable Edibles.

"I've just fast-forwarded those plans," O'Connor said. "As one door opens, another closes."

O'Connor spent her last weeks in office tying up what she called "loose ends" and putting together files on outstanding issues for Napolitano and his staff. O'Connor and Napolitano exchanged messages during the transition, but never spoke, they both said.

At the top of the list O'Connor has waiting for Napolitano is a proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary near Milwaukee and Devon avenues. A community meeting is set for Tuesday, and city officials are expected to consider the matter May 28.

In addition, O'Connor said she pushed Emanuel to find the money for an annex to Ebinger Elementary School, which is severely overcrowded.

Faced with what Chicago Public Schools officials say is a $1.1 billion deficit, the budget for 2016-17 includes no money for additional classroom space anywhere in the city.

"I'm hoping the mayor can find the money from somewhere else," O'Connor said. "I told him it is important to me."

Other ongoing projects include the addition of equipment to the recently renovated playground at Pleasant Point Park, 6813 W. Imlay St., and plans to build a multi-unit development at Oketo and Northshore avenues on land that was once home to a church, O'Connor said.

Crews are also set to begin replacing the sewer underneath Raven Street as part of a citywide project to reduce flooding, O'Connor said.

In addition, annexes at Oriole Park Elementary School and Wildwood Elementary School are set to open in September, ending years of severe overcrowding.

"It is my strong belief that the 41st Ward is — without question — the best place in Chicago to call home or start a business," O'Connor wrote to her constituents. "We have great schools, safe streets, and a sense of community that cannot be matched. It is my hope that Ald.-elect Napolitano will do everything in his power to keep it that way. In that spirit, I wish him and all of you the very best."

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