b. May 5, 1938
Chicago, 33rd Ward Alderman (1975-2013)
Chicago, 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman (1976-2016)
Born and raised in Muskegon, MI, Richard F. Mell moved to Chicago after meeting his wife Marge, settling in Logan Square, and the 33rd Ward. Mell opened a spring manufacturing business (R.F. Mell Spring & Manufacturing), and became active in the community. He first served as precinct captain with the 33rd Ward Regular Democratic Organization under Committeeman John Brandt. In 1972 he ran for Ward Committeeman, losing by about 500 votes. In 1975 he beat Rex Sande, then-alderman of the 33rd Ward. The next year he won the committeeman seat. In 1979 he was elected Vice Mayor of Chicago by Council members, a position he held through April 1987.
As alderman, Mell was famously aligned with 10th Ward Alderman “Fast Eddie” Edward Vrdolyak as part of the Vrdolyak 29 in opposition to former Mayor Harold Washington. As the long time chair of the Council Rules Committee, Mell is widely credited with managing four city ward remaps every decade since 1982. This gave him tremendous power over fellow alderman, rewarding them or punishing them with favorable or unfavorable constituencies according to their record of towing the line with Council votes.
He was also the political sponsor of Alderman Vilma Colom (1995-2003) and played a significant role in organizing the field operations for then-Cong. Rahm Emanuel's (IL-5) 2002 election to Congress, succeeding his son-in-law Rod Blagojevich.
Mell’s daughter Patty is married to the now-convicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Mell was a driving force behind Blagojevich’s election as governor in 2002, but they publicly split three years later when Blagojevich shut down a landfill owned by a cousin of the family.
Mell's other daughter Deb Mell ran unopposed for State Representative in 2008 becoming the first openly lesbian member of the state legislature. Then, in 2013, the elder Mell stepped down from office, engineering the appointment of Deb Mell to replace him.
In 2016 Mell was defeated by surprise insurgent candidate Aaron Goldstein, the one-time attorney for his son-in-law, Rod. Mell lost by a mere 50 votes out of 10,864 cast. He did not contest the election and retired gracefully.
Important Political Events
- 1972, Lost for 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman against Rex Sande
- 1975, Elected 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman against Rex Sande
- 1979, Elected Vice Mayor by City Council
- 1983-1989, Opposed Mayor Washington as one of the Vrdolyak 29
- 1984, Briefly declared Mayor by City Council after Washington failed to file a legally mandated ethics statement
- 1986, Considered running for mayor
- 1991, Backed son-in-law Rod Blagojevich for legislator in the 33rd Illinois House district
- 1992, Lost to Nancy Kaszak for 34th Illinois House District seat
- 1996, Backed Son-in-law Rod Blagojevich for Congress,
- 2002, Backed Blagojevich for Governor
- 2008, Daughter Deb Mell elected State Representative
- 2009, Son-in-law Rod Blagojevich impeached from office and convicted of federal charges
- 2013, Retired from Council, Deb Mell appointed to replace him
- 2016, Defeated for 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman by Aaron Goldstein