SSA student Ameya Pawar earns surprise victory in City Council race

Mary Abowd
News Officer for Arts & HumanitiesUniversity Communications

Until Tuesday, few Chicagoans knew of Ameya Pawar.

That all changed on Election Night, when the 30–year–old graduate student at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago became the first Asian American in City Council history, as alderman–elect of the North Side’s 47th Ward.

“I hadn’t planned for this moment,” Pawar said in an interview Tuesday night with the Chicago Sun–Times. “Up until four weeks ago, it was just five or six of us knocking on every door…. The community really got behind us.”

Pawar enrolled in 2009 at SSA, where, according to his campaign website, he hoped to “gain a solid foundation in social policy and clinical social work” to apply to the City Council.

He also received a Master of Science in Threat and Response Management through the Graham School of General Studies.

“This experience really changed my life,” Pawar wrote on his campaign website. “My first lesson in emergency management was the foundation for all my current work and serves as the foundation for this campaign. That first lesson was: ‘All response is local.’”

A program assistant in Northwestern University’s Office of Emergency Management, Pawar is new to city politics, but he clearly impressed the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and the Sun–Times; both wrote glowing endorsements before the election.

The Tribune described Pawar as a candidate with “real vision and passion for the job.”

“He understands Chicago can no longer operate 50 ‘medieval fiefdoms’ and must radically overhaul worker retirement plans and budgeting,” the Tribune board wrote. “He’s innovative — Pawar has created a “Chicago Works” iPhone app that residents can use to report potholes or unplowed streets directly to the 311 center.”

The Sun–Times, for their part, called him “an easy pick” for the North Side ward.

Pawar “is intent on improving the ward and giving residents a greater voice,” the Sun–Times editorial board wrote. “He also knows his way around a city budget and appreciates how Chicago’s patchwork of neighborhoods must rise or fall together. The Council would be lucky to have him.”