Mary Ann Smith

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Mary Ann Smith

b. November 2, 1946

Chicago, 48th Ward Alderman (1989-2011)

For most of the late 20th Century, the 48th Ward was a bubbling cauldron of political froth. Beginning in the 1960's, the 48th Ward has been the North Side's center of the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO), led by Marion Volini and Kathy Osterman, activists from the Edgewater Community Council. Mary Ann Smith was one of their proteges.

Sometime supporters of Harold Washington, Volini won 48th Ward Alderman in a 1978 special election and backed the 1984 Democratic Committeeman winner Robert Remer. While Volini labeled herself "Independent", she backed Richard M. Daley in his unsuccessful run for Mayor in 1983 and shied away from backing independent Mayor Harold Washington in a series of crucial City Council votes. Not surprisingly, her ally Osterman worked in Daley's State's Attorney's office.

In 1987, Volini retired her seat and Osterman won a contentious race to succeed her. In 1989, Osterman supported Daley for mayor. Soon after, Osterman was rewarded when he tapped her to run the high-profile Mayor's Office of Special Events and then appointed Smith 48th Ward Alderman.

The Volinis presence in the ward continued in 1992 when Marion's son Michael Volini won the Democratic Committeeman seat (a position he held until passing it on to Carol Ronen in 2008). Although Kathy Osterman died from breast cancer in 1992, the Osterman tradition continues as Kathy's son Harry Osterman was elected State Representative in 2000.

Throughout all of this, Smith has held onto her seat by sticking to the issues - and rarely endorsing candidates not endorsed by the Volinis and Ostermans. For most of her tenure Smith has been unchallenged for reelection, sticking to good government issues and traditional liberal causes, like the Human Rights Ordinance, the Domestic Partner Ordinance and pushing the Lincoln Park Zoo to eliminate the elephant exhibit after a series of elephant deaths. This is not to suggest Smith has not had opponents - for some election cycles Smith started with opponents, who were later knocked off the ballot - a skill she, the Volinis and the Ostermans learned long ago with the IVI-IPO.

In 2011, Smith retired as alderman. She served to the end of her term, leaving an open seat race to succeed her. But in an indication of how happy residents were with her stewardship–or maybe how placid 48th voters are, Harry Osterman, son of Smith's mentor, Kathy Osterman, easily won election to replace her.

Important Political Events

  • 1989, Appointed 48th Ward Alderman by Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace Kathy Osterman
  • 1991, Elected 48th Ward Alderman
  • 2011, Retired as 48th Ward Alderman, replaced by Harry Osterman