After being appointed 17th Ward Alderman by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 2000, the residents of the 17th Ward elected Latasha R. Thomas to the post by a 4-to-1 margin in February 2001. She was re-elected in February 2003, 2007 & April 2011.
Thomas has resided in the 17th Ward for most of her life. After graduating from Kenwood High School she received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois and her law degree from DePaul University. During her studies, Alderman Thomas was very active in the Black Student Union at the University of Illinois and the Black Law Students Association at DePaul. She was also Editor-in-Chief of the National Black Student Association’s newsletter, “The Fourteenth Amendment.”
Thomas earned her stripes as law clerk to Circuit Court Judge Odas Nicholson and in the City of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel; as a staff attorney with CARPLS (a legal aid and referral service organization) and began her own private practice in 1994. She joined the Department of Human Services in 1997 as Associate Director of the Children Services Division (which would later become the Department of Children and Youth Services). Thomas was responsible for restructuring the multi-million dollar division’s staffing and operations, before being elevated to the post of Director of Intergovernmental Relations in April 2000. While in this role, Thomas was responsible for overseeing department communication and collaboration with federal, state and local government agencies.
During her 11 years as Alderman, Thomas has worked to change the overall perception of the Englewood and Auburn Gresham communities among non-residents, along with the amount of investment and support coming from local residents and business owners in strengthening their ward’s neighborhoods. She has steadfastly pushed commercial and residential redevelopment in the 17th Ward, and her original pledge to “take the community to the next level” is the driving force behind her efforts to compliment commercial development that is currently underway with significant residential development to transform and revitalize the ward.
Alderman Thomas hosts many events in and around the ward. Most notable is the Annual Southside Gospel Festival which takes place in the heart of the Englewood community. It is the single largest neighborhood gospel festival in Chicago. National talent highlights the event each year with local talent featured throughout the day. Over 20,000 residents from Englewood, Auburn Gresham and across the city attend the event. Additionally, she hosts the Annual Christmas in Englewood Toy Give-Away. In December 2011 – the 16th Year of the event – over $75,000 was raised for disadvantaged children in Englewood. Each year, volunteers from the 17th Ward shop for each family chosen to receive gifts.
Her Role as Education Committee Chair
Enabling our city’s residents through education is a primary objective for Alderman Thomas. Improving our city’s schools and educational opportunities has always been among her top priorities. As Alderman, she has worked to acquire funding which enabled many 17th Ward schools to be renovated and spawned a number of campus park facilities throughout the ward.
She currently serves as Chairman of the City Council Education Committee, responsible for addressing those issues relative to educating residents of the city at every level. In addition to her year-round efforts and events aimed at improving the quality of life for residents, Thomas sponsors essay contests, serves on several educational committees and provides various incentives for both parents and children to aggressively pursue a love of learning and involvement in the educational process.more » « less