Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday, February 2, appointed Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward) as her new Floor Leader, as well as Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) as Deputy Floor Leader. The move came after Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) announced that he would step down from his position.
Six weeks after giving his resignation, Villegas went public with his decision Tuesday in a move that revealed a widening rift between Lightfoot and some of the city’s aldermen. Last November, Lightfoot’s $12.8 billion pandemic budget barely passed the City Council by a 29-21 vote. Most of Chicago’s Black aldermen voted in favor of Lightfoot’s budget.
Alderman Harris, who is serving her fourth term, supported the mayor’s budget. Now she will serve as floor leader. A lifelong Chicago resident, Alderman Harris has served in Chicago’s City Council since 2006 and represents several of Chicago’s South Side communities, including South Shore, Chatham, Calumet Heights, Burnside, Pullman, Avalon Park and South Chicago. She also serves as Chairman of the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules.
“Alderman Harris brings years of experience in the City Council, including a long history of working within the Council to bridge divides and craft resident-focused legislation. I look forward to working with her in this new capacity and continuing to move Chicago forward in a more equitable and inclusive way,” said Lightfoot.
“I am honored to be joining Mayor Lightfoot’s team during this important time in our city,” said Harris. “Since Mayor Lightfoot first entered office, she has been a bold and inspiring leader for Chicago, fighting hard every day to expand jobs and hope across our neighborhoods. This is an exciting moment for all of us, and I can’t wait to get our work started.”
Lightfoot thanked Villegas for his service as Floor Leader, which he served for about one and half years.
“Alderman Villegas has been both a personal friend and powerful ally since I took office, and I thank him for his ongoing commitment to our city and its residents,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “While I’m sad to see Alderman Villegas leave his post, I am thrilled Alderman Harris will be taking reigns as my new Floor Leader and that Alderman Cardenas will serve in a newly-created role as Deputy Floor Leader. Michelle and George are smart, experienced and respected by their colleagues. They will be a very dynamic team and will be great assets to help us do the people’s work.”
A native of Mexico, George Cardenas immigrated with his family to Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, where he entered Lane Tech High School, served in the United States Navy, and later earned two degrees from Northeastern Illinois University. Alderman Cardenas was first elected to the City Council in 2003, representing Chicago’s Southwest Side communities, and currently serves as Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, and Vice Chairman of the new Committee on Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
“We are living amidst a tremendous challenge for our beloved city, and I am incredibly grateful to work with both Mayor Lightfoot and Alderman Harris to seize this historic moment for the great opportunity it is,” said Alderman Cardenas. “I have no doubt that together we will be able to make the tangible steps needed to support Chicago’s families, improve the lives of our communities, and build a future that is even brighter than our past.”