WICKER PARK — Brian Hopkins, the newly-elected alderman at the helm of the city's sprawling "New 2," a gerrymandered ward that cuts in and out of parts of several neighborhoods, announced a permanent ward office and full-time staffers — including one of his former opponents — on Thursday.
Hopkins' 2nd Ward office will be at 1400 N. Ashland Ave., long home to Carniciera Leon, a grocer and taqueria.
The new office will celebrate its opening day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with food trucks, including Chicago's Finest, parked alongside the office on Blackhawk Street. Visitors will also be able to buy city stickers for stickers expiring in May, June and July. See more details here.
Steve Niketopoulos, a CAN-TV educational TV producer for the past eight years and a Hopkins opponent in the election, will join the 2nd Ward alderman's staff "in a senior role, and one of my top advisors," according to Hopkins.
Niketopoulos, he said, "brings a lot to the table."
Niketopoulos has resigned from his full-time TV job; volunteers will oversee neighborhood Facebook pages that he created, some with thousands of members such as the online Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Watch.
"I want to avoid any conflicts, but also the new position [with Hopkins] needs full attention," Niketopoulos said early Friday.
Hopkins said he noticed Niketopoulos' social media skills during the campaign.
"His social media presence was greater than mine and his mastery of social media and communications, that is part of his skill sets and will be very helpful," Hopkins said.
Each of the city's 50 aldermen, who earn six-figure salaries, has a set budget of $182,000 for staff salaries and $97,000 for expenses and consultant fees.
Niketopoulos was one of five challengers running against Hopkins in the closely watched election that led to a run-off between Hopkins and Ukrainian Village resident Alyx Pattison, where Hopkins won by 56.3 percent to Pattison's 43.7.
"The city has two specific titles, assistant to the alderman and staff to the alderman, and staff can make up their own titles. In the next few days we will be designing an office structure and dividing duties and responsibilities," Hopkins said.
2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins and Steve Niketopoulos, one of 5 challengers to Hopkins in the closely watched race. [Provided]
This 2nd Ward office,, between the Wicker Park and Noble Square neighborhoods and across from Mott St. restaurant, is a few blocks south of North Avenue and behind a new Lowe's that is replacing a K-Mart.
"During the campaign I committed to opening a ward office on the western part of the ward; it's the first campaign promise I can check off," Hopkins said.
Since being sworn-in in mid-May, Hokpins said the constituent requests for services are "pouring in."
"Crosswalks where people want a traffic light, safety, the street re-paving program. We should know early next week on what streets will be paved... graffiti removal, all of those requests have been pouring in," he said.
The boundaries of the 2nd Ward make their way west from the lakefront through at least seven neighborhoods, weaving and snaking through, at times, single blocks of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Ukrainian Village, Wicker Park and Bucktown.
The 2nd was the only ward redrawn in 2011 that contains not one block from its previous incarnation. Find out if you live in the 2nd Ward, or another ward, here.
According to a news release, the new 2nd ward staff are:
Dean Argiris, a previous 2nd Ward Office staffer who "built up a reputation of responsiveness to constituent issues over the past two years. He has worked with both city departments and private utility companies to facilitate resolutions to city service issues. Dean was also responsible for identifying infrastructure to be funded through Aldermanic Menu." Dean can be contacted at Constantine.Argiris@cityofchicago.org.
Christian Ficara, Hopkins' Field Director during the 2014-2015 campaign. Before teaming up with Hopkins, Ficara "led communication and legislative strategy for a broad range of clients including public health, education and transportation organizations." A 5-year resident of the 2nd Ward, Ficara also serves on the Local School Council as the Community Representative for Ogden International School, the Program Committee of Washington Square Park’s Advisory Council, and is a member of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR).
Kathleen Meradith, entering her final year at Loyola University Chicago. Originally from Lincoln, Nebraska, she is earning her BA in Political Science and International Studies and hopes to eventually earn her Masters in Public Administration. She was recently awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State to conduct fieldwork in Rabat, Morocco, where she researched the gender quota in the lower chamber of parliament. She is passionate about women's rights issues and urban policy as it affects minority groups.
Steve Niketopoulos, the creator of several online neighborhood discussion forums involving the various communities of the “New 2.” Niketopoulos received a Bachelor's Degree from Loyola University Chicago before working at radio and television stations. He is president of the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association, serves on his local school council for Columbus Elementary and founded Stay Safe of Illinois, which focuses on community policing and improving city services.
Lisa Ryan is a former aldermanic chief of staff who brings several years of governmental affairs experience to the 2nd Ward office. Ryan has worked and coordinated with all city departments and sister agencies. She also spearheaded several annual special events in the neighborhoods and was a liaison to many community groups. Lisa has always been a dedicated neighborhood advocate, been active in civic community volunteering and has served on several boards, including Local School Council, Neighborhood Organizations, and Senior Centers. Lisa can be contacted at Lisa.Ryan@cityofchicago.org.
The 2nd Ward office, 1400 N. Ashland Ave. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, with additional weekend hours at special events all across the ward at a mobile field office. Parking is available on Ashland and along Blackhawk St. Sign up here for the 2nd Ward e-newsletter and updates.
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