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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Candidate banks on experience in mayoral race

As one of the four candidates vying to replace Mayor Lorraine Morton in April, Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) said she does not see herself as the most inspiring leader in the field.

“I’m an executive,” she said. “I’m good at finding the right people and sitting them down in a room to form solutions.”

Tisdahl, who has lived in Evanston for 37 years and served as alderman for five, has a vast amount of experience in city government and has close relations with Morton.

“(Morton) asked me to run after she decided to retire,” said the mother of four and grandmother of two.

She served on the District 202 Board of Education for 12 years as both a member and president before Morton appointed her alderman in 2003, when Steve Engelman resigned in the middle of his term.

As mayor, Tisdahl said her greatest asset would be her political connections and lobbying skills. She decided to run because she had grown frustrated with only being able to represent her ward.

“The mayor is the face of Evanston,” she said. “I can’t lobby as effectively as an alderman as I can when I’m mayor.”

Aside from having worked with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th), and 13th District Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Tisdahl said she also met with President-elect Barack Obama several times during the early stages of his senatorial campaign.

“Barack has said he will give cities and states money to build infrastructure to create jobs,” Tisdahl said. “I would like to be in Washington with a professional lobbyist when that money is being allocated.”

Evanston needs federal aid for many projects, Tisdahl said, but her top priorities are improving roads, and saving or replacing the dilapidated Evanston Civic Center and Robert Crowne Center.

Tisdahl established many of her political connections when she worked with the Democratic Party of Evanston as Chairwoman of Education Research and Development 12 years ago.

“We were the first to endorse Barack when he was third in the polls in the Senate race,” she said.

Many who have worked with Tisdahl testify to her organizational skills.

“She knows how to build a consensus when it’s necessary,” said Sandra Hill, who has been the alderman’s neighbor for 22 years and collaborated with her on many community-based projects. “She is a person who can bring people together.”

The two worked together as founding members of Evanston’s Mothers Against Gangs, an organization that was instrumental in the city’s decision to install lights in parks to decrease criminal activity at night. The group disbanded after witnessing a significant drop in gang activity.

“She played a leadership role in that endeavour and worked with a very diverse group,” Hill said.

Several of Tisdahl’s peers on the city council also praised her abilities.

“She’s very analytical,” said Ald. Delores Holmes (5th). “Her thoughts are always well developed.”

Tisdahl attended Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, but was unable to graduate for health reasons. She is now a partner at Congaree River Limited Partnership, a Chicago-based timber company owned by her family.

She shares her northwest Evanston home with two pets – a dog named Boomer and a cat named Dog Food. Tisdahl said Dog Food earned her name because she had a habit of eating Boomer’s dinner.

Looking forward, the alderman said she plans to emphasize her ability as an organizer and her understanding of the mayoral office to separate herself from the crowded field.

“I’m not really supposed to know anything,” Tisdahl said. “I’m just supposed to know who does.”

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Candidate banks on experience in mayoral race