She has no days off, but that’s what she signed up for because “so much needed to be done.” Each time she walks out of her door, there is something that requires attention, said Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th).

She has no days off, but that’s what she signed up for because “so much needed to be done.” Each time she walks out of her door, there is something that requires attention, said Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th).

The 16th Ward, once under the 17-year helm of former Ald. Shirley Coleman, includes portions of the Back of the Yards, Englewood, Gage Park and New City communities, and borders the 3rd, 16th and 20th Wards.

Thompson beat Coleman with a slight majority in the April 2007 aldermanic run-off election.

Her first task after immediately taking her post was to brighten the ward, literally.

“I upgraded the street lighting in the ward. There are over 1,500 residential light poles here. I took them from 150 watts to 250 watts. I’ve also had the poles painted,” Thompson told the Defender.

Speed bumps were also added and some of the alleys resurfaced. Those small things mean a lot and add up to big things, Thompson said.

During her campaign to oust Coleman, Thompson said the former alderman was neglectful of the ward.

When the Defender asked residents if they agreed, many were indifferent.

Nelson Parris, a long-time resident of the ward, said all aldermen are the same, and he sees no difference between Coleman and Thompson.

“They all come in and say they are going to do this and do that. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. If you call, they come. There’s just no difference with any of them,” Parris said.

Another resident said the former and new aldermen are basically the same and doing the best job possible.

“When the block needed something, we called the (former) alderman, and things were taken care of. She helped us get things from the city when we had our block club meetings and parties. We also used to have neighborhood clean-up days. She was a good alderman,” Ivory Owens said.

Owens said Thompson is also doing a good job.

“Somebody has to be the leader, and she’s doing fine. It will naturally take her some time to get used to everything and get to what everyone may request, but she’s doing good. I want her to help us get our block club back,” said Owens, a resident in the 5300 block of South Hoyne Avenue.

The responsibility of the ward does not rest solely on the alderman, resident Joe Martin said.

He, too, said Coleman did a good job and so is Thompson, but added that the residents have to be willing to work with their alderman.

“Everyone has to work together in order to make it all work,” Martin said.

Thompson said while she has done a lot already, there is more to be accomplished. Her focus is on having more residential and economic development in the ward.

Before re-election time nears, a 149-unit senior assisted living facility is slated for 57th Street and Ashland Avenue, and a 100-room single occupancy room building will be on 63rd Street and Peoria Avenue. The SRO will also have a resource center to meet the residents’ needs, she said.

And job opportunities for residents will be available once a grocery store, in the 6300 block of South Morgan Street, and sit-down restaurant come to the ward, Thompson added.

“I’m pleased with my first year and can only hope that the residents see that I am working hard for them,” she said.

Kathy Chaney can be reached at kchaney@chicagodefender.com.

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