Alderman Michele Smith is currently serving her second term as Alderman of the 43rd Ward, after winning reelection in 2015. The 43rd Ward encompasses the vibrant Lakefront communities of Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast and Old Town and is one of the social, cultural and economic hubs of the City of Chicago.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1979, Alderman Smith began her career in public service as a member of the US Attorney’s Office. While there, she prosecuted hundreds of narcotics, white-collar, and political corruption cases – including the prosecution of the largest commodities “boiler rooms” (securities fraud) at that time in the United States, resulting in the conviction of over twenty defendants.
After her time in the US Attorney’s Office, Alderman Smith joined Navistar International Corporation, and was later named the General Counsel for the Engine Group, a $2.5 Billion subsidiary. In her capacity as the General Counsel, she led the company’s intellectual property management and patent litigation group, as well as the corporate law division. During her time at Navistar, she participated in the team that helped reform Navistar’s retiree health care liabilities and was actively involved in attempts to reduce the corporation’s carbon footprint, leading the team responsible for enacting changes in the Clean Air Act to reduce diesel emissions to near zero by 2007.
Since her election, Alderman Smith has placed a premium on providing constituent services to ward residents, resulting in the establishment of a robust constituent service office that fulfills approximately 14,000 individual residential service requests per year. This has resulted in the significant improvement of much of the 43rd Ward infrastructure—including the installation of new streets, sewer lines, water mains, sidewalks, and trees.
Additionally, understanding the significant increase in the amount of young families in her ward, Alderman Smith has been a tireless supporter for education. She successfully advocated for Lincoln Park High School to become a Wall-to-Wall International Baccalaureate program, and successfully won funding for an annex to Lincoln Elementary School to relieve overcrowding.
Furthermore, she has taken an active role in advocating for smart-growth, community driven development, ensuring that developers earn any development rights via a vigorous community-oriented process to achieve the best possible development outcome. The effectiveness of this approach was most evident in the redevelopment of the Lincoln Park Hospital location that resulted in decreasing the intensity of the usage of the site, and the development of the Children’s Memorial site into a new neighborhood crossroads, featuring housing across a range of income levels, an assisted living facility, and over an acre of new open space.
Alderman Smith has also been a keen legislative advocate for residents and businesses alike, and she prioritizes fiscal responsibility and governmental transparency. In 2011, she successfully lobbied to delay the removal of the condominium refuse rebate that was in danger of being immediately phased out. Further, in 2012 she successfully led the fight to make the new city “Infrastructure Trust” more transparent. In 2013, she was one of the co-sponsors of the Council Office of Financial Accountability (COFA), an entity that promises to provide the Chicago City Council with information regarding pending financial matters they are asked to vote on for the first time in its history.
Alderman Smith also co-sponsored the elimination of the “Head Tax”, a levy that provided a deterrent to small businesses seeking to hire more employees, worked with the Emanuel Administration to reform the investment strategies of the City’s largest employee pension fund, and pushed for full pension reform to relieve financial stress on the taxpayers.
Perhaps most importantly, during the 2011 redistricting process and despite nearly overwhelming odds, Alderman Smith successfully rallied the 43rd Ward and lobbied the City Council to prevent Lincoln Park from being split up amongst five different wards. This action ensured that the community will continue to have a single voice representing them on the Chicago City Council and advocate on their behalf.
Alderman Smith is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Education and Child Development and currently sits on seven City Council Committees: Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics; Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development; Committee on Human Relations; Committee on License and Consumer Protection; Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation; Committee on Transportation and Public Way; and the Committee on Workforce Development and Audit.