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Obama Confidante King Insists 'I Sent Myself' As New 4th Ward Alderman

By Ted Cox | April 12, 2016 12:59pm
 Sophia King has been appointed to fill the 4th Ward seat of former Ald. Will Burns.
Sophia King has been appointed to fill the 4th Ward seat of former Ald. Will Burns.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A City Council committee put off confirmation of a new 4th Ward alderman Tuesday as she met colleagues and went about getting her "sea legs" at City Hall.

"I sent myself," said Sophia King, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday night to fill the post of former Ald. Will Burns (4th). "I think that my record speaks for itself."

King boasts 30 years of experience serving the community, most recently as founder of Harriet's Daughters, created in 2010 to "secure opportunities for employment and creation of wealth among African-American communities."

"I've worked to serve the community and always wanted to give back," King said Tuesday at City Hall.

 Sophia King meets Ald. Carrie Austin after Tuesday's Rules Committee meeting.
Sophia King meets Ald. Carrie Austin after Tuesday's Rules Committee meeting.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Yet King is also an insider who's known the Obamas since before Barack Obama was a state senator. Her husband, Alan King, has been cited as one of the president's pickup basketball buddies. A lawyer, he is also a groundbreaking house-music disc jockey aligned with the Chosen Few group.

"We're proud of him," Sophia King said of Obama. "I think the president has done a great job. I'm happy to be associated with him. But we know him from before he was president."

King also is an ally of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who appointed her to the Kenwood Park Advisory Council when Preckwinkle was 4th Ward alderman. King went on to be elected council president.

King confirmed she had consulted with Preckwinkle, still the 4th Ward Democratic committeeman, about the aldermanic post, saying, "I'd be remiss not to talk to her."

But it was Emanuel who appointed her, and King insisted Tuesday it was on her merits, calling it a convergence of "opportunity meeting experience."

King said that when Burns announced he was leaving the City Council in February, friends in the neighborhood immediately asked if she were interested and "my first response was no."

Yet they prevailed upon her, and she prevailed over 17 other applicants, according to the Mayor's Office.

King has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and taught chemistry at the Latin School for five years in the '90s. She went on to earn a master's in education and social policy from Northwestern University.

She also founded the Ariel Community Academy, an attempt to "bring best practices from the Latin School to the South Side," and did a two-year term with Chicago Public Schools as deputy director of sports administration in the early 2000s.

But she can also list Marty Nesbitt, chairman of the board of the Barack Obama Foundation, as a reference on her resume, along with Jesse Ruiz, former CPS chief executive officer and Board of Education member who now heads the Park District.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), chairman of the Rules Committee, held a meeting Tuesday with King's appointment on the agenda, but put off King's confirmation until just before the City Council meeting Wednesday. Harris said King would likely be more relaxed Wednesday, after a day at City Hall to give her "an opportunity for her to come down and get her sea legs."

King said she'd prioritize meeting her new Council colleagues and new constituents, calling the 4th Ward "very diverse" and "very big."

She mentioned gun violence as "an issue the city needs to look at," but also compared it to "an ecosystem" in that it also concerns employment and education.

"Initially, I just want to get around and meet a lot of people," King said.

She should be formally installed as 4th Ward alderman at Wednesday's City Council meeting. A special election for the rest of the four-year term is set for February.

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