Ald. Kent chooses principal position over re-election

Paul Thissen and Paul Thissen

Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) said Thursday that he will not seek re-election, confirming months of speculation that he would leave Evanston City Council after 14 years of service.

In August, Kent started a new job as principal of East Elementary School in Zion, Ill., after teaching for 16 years at Washington Elementary School, 914 Ashland Ave.

Zion is about an hour north of Evanston, near the Wisconsin border.

Kent said he thought he could remain on the council even with his new job, but added that the additional responsibility and commute would take too much time.

"(Early in the year I) was just trying to see if the possibility could be there that I could maintain both (the job and the council position)," Kent said. "The possibility is not there."

Although Kent is leaving the council, he said he has no plans to leave Evanston.

"I’ve still got a lot left to do there with the students and kids in Evanston," he said, "and with my neighborhood as well."

Kent has missed five of the last 10 council meetings. Amid Kent’s absence and rumors about his new job, nine people picked up packets to run for the Fifth Ward seat.

Two people, Delores Holmes and Furman Sizemore, filed to become candidates, and several others have said they will run.

Sizemore said he was running because Kent was not.

Kent is not the only long-time alderman leaving the council. Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), who was also elected to the council in 1991, and Ald. Gene Feldman (9th), who has been on the council since 1987, have said they will not run again.

"We’re losing a lot of institutional memory," Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said. "We’re a government of laws, not men … but it’s going to be a loss."

Bernstein, who is running again, said he remembers Kent as a strong advocate of his constituents.

"He worked very hard to make sure the ward was well taken care of in terms of getting the right economic development," said Delores Holmes, who has filed to run for Fifth Ward alderman. "He brought a lot of energy and a different outlook."

Kent was a staunch supporter of affordable housing throughout his tenure on the council.

In 2003 he worked with Fifth Ward residents to enact a building ban aimed at preventing developers from purchasing and demolishing smaller homes to build larger developments.

He also has been an advocate of greater police presence in off-campus student areas in the Fifth Ward. He served on the most recent city-university task force to discuss student behavior.

"I like Joe," Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said. "I’ll be sorry if I don’t see him, even if he is off the council."

Moran, who also is running again, said he had expected Kent not to run.

"I suspect that it’s pretty difficult for him to be working up in Zion and handle council duties as well," he said.

Reach Paul Thissen at [email protected].