• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 26, 2022

    Hairston to retire next year after 24 years on City Council

    Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) during a City Council meeting. [Don Vincent/The Daily Line]

    Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) will retire at the end of her term in 2023, marking an end to her 24-year run as alderwoman of the South Side ward that covers portions of Hyde Park, South Shore, Grand Crossing and Woodlawn.

    Hairston made the announcement Friday afternoon in a news release saying, “For more than 30 years, I have held jobs serving the public and it is time for me to look at the next chapter of my life.” 

    Hairston, a member of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, didn’t reveal what her plans are after she retires from the City Council next year. 

    “While I haven’t made any decisions yet, rest assured it will be active, engaged and committed to making my community better,” Hairston wrote in the news release. “It just will not be as alderperson.” 

    Hairston wrote that while “nothing has come easy, the 5th Ward can take credit for a long list of accomplishments.” The alderwoman listed those accomplishments including the Obama Presidential Center, Stony Island Arts Bank, Local Market Grocery Store, Sophy Hotel, Greater Grand Crossing Library and access to the lakefront. 

    Officials last year officially broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center, which is located in Hairston’s ward. The alderwoman has helped push for the protection of affordable housing around the site in Jackson Park. 

    “It has been an honor for me to represent and serve one of the most independent wards in the city of Chicago,” Hairston wrote in the news release. “I hope the next alderperson will continue in the same 5th Ward tradition and serve with integrity, independence and perseverance.” 

    In addition to her time as alderwoman, Hairston has served as the Cook County Democratic Party 5th Ward Committeeperson since 2000. 

    Hairston has recently been a lead sponsor of the Peace Book Ordinance (O2022-1891), a proposal from the group Good Kids Mad City that has been circulating for years but had not been formally introduced as an ordinance until June. 

    Related: Sawyer pushes public safety ordinances amid summer violence: ‘We want long-term solutions’ 

    Not a stranger to pushing for police reform, Hairston was the lead sponsor of the proposed ordinance to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (SO2019-8058) that at first competed against the proposal from the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) to create the city’s first civilian police oversight board. 

    The proposal Hairston originally sponsored pitched a directly elected oversight commission that would have had power to set police policy and hire leaders. 

    Supporters of the two competing proposals came to a compromise in 2021 to propose the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance, which ultimately was approved by the City Council in July of last year.  


    She is also part of a group of Black alderwomen pushing for adoption of the Anjanette Young ordinance that would ban no-knock warrants and work to prevent wrongful raids by the Chicago Police Department. 

    Hairston was one of five aldermen at the time to vote against Mayor Richard M. Daley's parking meter privatization deal in 2009. 

    Hairston is the latest in a slew of longtime lakefront aldermen to announce their retirement with Ald. James Cappleman (46) and Ald. Harry Osterman (48) planning to also hang up their hats in 2023. Ald. Michele Smith (43) announced her abrupt retirement last month and her last day in office was Aug. 12. 


    Hairston was first elected to City Council in 1999 and was reelected to her sixth term in 2019 after a close runoff election against activist William Calloway, who was a key figure in the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.  

    Hairston won the 2019 election by 176 votes. 

    Prior to being elected alderwoman, Hairston received a J.D. from Loyola University and worked as an Assistant Attorney General. Hairston maintained a private law practice before she was first elected alderwoman in 1999.  

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