Retiring Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) took reporters down memory lane Friday, regaling them with stories about his humble boyhood beginnings, how he broke into the Chicago spring business and the congratulatory call from Mayor Richard J. Daley after his first aldermanic win.
In his first public speech since announcing his retirement Wednesday, the second-longest serving member of Chicago's City Council and one of the city's most powerful aldermen spoke about key points from his career and, in turn, city of Chicago politics.
"Before you ask me all the questions about my successor," Mell told reporters Friday afternoon, "I don't know how much time you've got, but I thought I would spend a career with you today."
"I'm going to go back to almost the beginning and go through it, so it might take a little while. If it's too long for you," he joked, "I'm sorry."
From there you could hear reporters chuckling at stories about how Mell gained and took hold of an aldermanic seat through the reigns of mayors Daley, Bilandic, Byrne, Washington, Orr, Sawyer, Daley and Emanuel.
The 75-year-old alderman submitted his resignation to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday after 40 years of serving as councilman for the city's Northwest Side. Emanuel said he will accept it effective July 24.
“Alderman Mell has served the City of Chicago and the 33rd Ward with distinction for nearly 40 years,” Emanuel said in a statement. “In a city known for its colorful characters, Alderman Mell is a larger than life Chicago character who, just like the Billy Goat and Second City, is a Chicago institution and, in his own way, he has defined what public service and class look like. Always at his desk – sometimes on it – Alderman Mell has served the residents of the 33rd Ward well for nearly four decades. As a Chicagoan, as a colleague, as mayor and as a friend, I will miss him. Alderman Mell may be succeeded in the City Council, but he is a one-of-a-kind who can never be replaced.”
Mell in January denied rumors he planned to retire this year.
State Rep. Deb. Mell (D-Chicago), Mell’s daughter, is on the list to fill his seat, but Emanuel said he's taking suggestions on who should replace the long-time legislator.
“I am looking for a candidate with a strong background, solid ties to the community, and a willingness to tackle the tough issues facing Chicagoans,” said Mayor Emanuel.
Beginning at 9 a.m. July 5 through 5 p.m. July 11, eligible residents of the 33rd Ward can submit their credentials for consideration of the role. Emanuel will appoint a "community-based commission to review the applications and submit a list of finalists for him to choose from."
Emanuel plans to install a new alderman at the July 24 City Council meeting "so the residents of the 33rd Ward will not see a lapse in representation at City Council."
Mell is the father-in-law of jailed former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.