Crusader Staff Report
Activist Jennifer Maddox on Tuesday, August 28, kicked off her campaign for 20th Ward alderman, hoping to restore public trust and activism in two areas in the community: policing and politics. She has experience in one and has set the groundwork to be a public servant in the other.
Maddox kicked off her campaign with supporters canvassing Woodlawn and other neighborhoods, collecting signatures to get Maddox on the ballot for the mayoral election on February 19, 2019. She faces a growing field of candidates that include 20th Ward Democratic Committeeman Kevin Bailey, educator and activist Nicole Johnson, and activist Andre Smith. Current 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran is not seeking re-election.
Maddox must collect 1,500 signatures to get her name on the ballot, but candidates usually try to secure twice or three times the number in case some signatures end up invalidated during the certification process. Applicants have until November 26 to file their petitions, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
Maddox is a veteran Chicago police officer who seeks to replace another former cop. With residents struggling to trust Chicago police and the political establishment, Maddox aims to change the perception of government and law enforcement. As an activist she has built a loyal following of community residents who view her as a dedicated and genuine professional.
Maddox disclosed her political ambitions in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Crusader.
She shared her intentions to change the Woodlawn neighborhood that’s undergoing significant urban renewal, and the impending construction of the Obama Presidential Center and Library.
Her fight to help and mentor dozens of youth has been documented in Chicago newspapers, on local television stations and recently with CNN, which nominated Maddox for its Hero of the Year Award.
She has been honored many times for her activism, including at the Chicago Crusader Heroes in the Hood ceremony in May of this year. Now Maddox wants to take her crusade to City Hall where as a leader, she plans to address gun violence and the lack of mental health clinics in Woodlawn, as concerns of gentrification grow in the neighborhood.
As part of her campaign, CNN asked Maddox not to use its award nomination as part of her platform. Nevertheless, many in Chicago are aware of Maddox’s deep roots in community activism in her ward.
“We need a lot of change in the community,” Maddox told the Crusader. “We need to get the community more involved in their neighborhood. Life on the South and West sides is like a desert. We need more businesses and stores. We need to get the ward to look like downtown Chicago.”
Maddox aims to replace incumbent Willie Cochran, a former policeman who has said he’s not seeking re-election after serving as alderman since 2007. Cochran, who is fighting bribery and corruption charges in federal court replaced Arenda Troutman, who served four years in prison after pleading guilty of taking bribes as an alderman.
The 20th ward includes Woodlawn, Washington Park, Englewood and parts of Back of the Yards and Canaryville.
In the 2014 election, Bailey gave Cochran a worthy challenge before losing with 44 percent of the vote. Bailey may also be Maddox’s biggest challenger this time around.
Maddox has served with the Chicago Police Department for 22 years. She currently serves in the force’s community affairs department at police headquarters at 35th and Michigan.
Maddox has patrolled tough neighborhoods and seen how the city’s spiraling gun violence and homicides threaten the lives of Black teenagers on a daily basis. She also mentors parents whose children attend Dulles Elementary School in Woodlawn.
Maddox worked as a security guard at Parkway Gardens, where she saw a heavy need for mentoring youth who are being raised in single parent households and live in constant fear of their lives. In the basement of Parkway Gardens in 2012, she started Future Ties, an afterschool program with 35 kids whose ages ranged from 12 to 17.
In 2017, Future Ties expanded to a summer program that exposes the young people to areas of Chicago they have never been. The program helps some 50 participants acquire job skills and take valuable classes to boost academic achievement, self-esteem and social skills.
Since Maddox’s Parkway Gardens program began, several students have gone to college while others have secured employment thanks to the training they received with Maddox.