A Chicago native and fierce community advocate with deep roots in the South Shore and Hyde Park neighborhoods, Leslie Hairston has built a professional career dedicated to public service. She recently won election to her fifth term as alderman of Chicago’s 5th Ward and sits on six City committees – Economic, Capital & Technology Development (vice chair), Finance; Budget & Government Operations; Committees, Rules & Ethics; Health & Environmental Protection; and Special Events, Cultural Affairs & Recreation.
Since her election to the aldermanic office in 1999, Hairston has been instrumental in spearheading infrastructure improvements, business development, and initiatives to enhance ward residents’ safety, security and quality of life, most notably:
– The $162 million reconstruction of South Lake Shore Drive; repair and enhancement of Metra stations and grounds; renovations to Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center; improvement to residential and commercial streets and lighting; and beautification of business districts.
– Opening of new shopping malls and addition of several local and national retailers, including K&G Fashion Superstore, Anna’s Linens, Staples, Aldi, Jewel/Osco, Save-A-Lot, and the city’s first drive-through Starbucks.
– Construction of the Greater Grand Crossing Library, Gary Comer Youth Center, Gary Comer College Prep high school, Comer Children’s Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House, as well as preservation of historically significant buildings being renovated for multi-use.
– Initiating ordinances, greater police presence and CAPS involvement to address vacant lots and buildings, problem businesses and landlords, robberies and loitering.
– Promoting the 5th Ward through the only triathlon on the South Side which Hairston established – as well as Midway Plaisance skating rink, Lucky Strike Bowling Alley, the Chosen Few House Music Festival, the Carifette Caribbean carnival, and public murals.
Hairston has earned a reputation for her principled positions beyond her ward. She was among a handful of aldermen refusing to approve the sale or lease of such city assets as parking meters without proper notice, documentation or financial justification. She fought ordinances that disproportionately burdened lakefront condominiums with requirements for sprinkler systems and façade improvements. She accepted a challenge to live for a week on food stamps, which led to her sponsoring legislation to expand the use of the Link card to purchase fresh produce.
A strong litigator, Hairston previously served as assistant attorney general for the state of Illinois and staff attorney and special prosecutor for the State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, where she argued before the Illinois State Supreme Court. An active member of the Illinois State Bar Association, she serves on its Real Estate Law section council.
Hairston has been heavily involved in professional, legal and social service activities, such as the Illinois State Bar Association, Friends of the Park, Kaleidoscope Inc., and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is particularly proud of her work with youth-based initiatives. “I come from a family that believes in education and community service. I can think of no greater honor or satisfaction than contributing to my home ward’s growth and recognition as one of the city’s finest places to live, work and play.”