Carrie Austin: City Hall powerbroker

Little did Alderwoman Carrie Austin know that in 1994, when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed her to represent the 34th Ward on the far South Side, it would transform her into a City Hall power broker.

Little did Alderwoman Carrie Austin know that in 1994, when Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed her to represent the 34th Ward on the far South Side, it would transform her into a City Hall power broker.

She has been active in politics since 1972 when her late husband, Lemuel, was the ward’s alderman. Early influences on Austin include former Alderman Wilson Frost, state Rep. Nelson Rice Sr. and U.S. Rep. Melvin Reynolds, where she served as his assistant district manager.

Now 15 years later, the chair of the budget committee––who recently was chair of the City Council’s Black Caucus––is still fighting for some of the same, basic principles her late husband stood for as a public servant.

Austin was appointed to fill the remaining six months of her husband’s term when he unexpectedly died in 1993 from a heart attack.

She said she sees her role as alderman as a way to continue his legacy as a faithful public servant.

“Quality schools, crime prevention and a community environment suited to raise children are some of the fundamental principles I try to maintain for the 34th Ward,” Austin told the Defender. “My first election was challenging, but I had my family behind me and that made all the difference.” Indeed, Austin has a close relationship with her family, having one of her four sons work for her as a staff assistant.

“I love all seven of my kids. I am so proud of them and the lives they lead,” she said.

But it takes more than family support to remain an alderman these days. Austin said it takes building a close relationship with your constituents and working hard everyday on their behalf.

“My job classification may say aldermen are part-time positions, but I work a full-time schedule every week,” she said. “And while some people think an alderman’s salary of $103,000 is too much, I do not think we are overpaid because I work for every penny and then some.”

As far as her aldermanic accomplishments, Austin points to the recent opening of the Marshfield Plaza strip mall at 119th Street and Marshfield Avenue, anchored by Target. She also said she is proud that her ward only has three liquor stores and not 10 or more like so many other Black communities.

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