Kathy Hayes, 9th Ward candidate, talks Evanston roots and social work experience


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Kathy Hayes. Hayes is running against Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) to represent the 9th Ward on City Council.

Jorja Siemons, Senior Staffer

For Kathy Hayes, running to represent Evanston’s 9th Ward on City Council is a full-circle moment. More than 25 years ago, she was working for a local political campaign: Richard Devine’s campaign for Cook County State’s Attorney. 

“I thought that political advocacy was very important not only to me personally, as a person who could be considered as disenfranchised, but also important to other people that are like me,” Hayes said. 

On Devine’s campaign team, Hayes did community outreach, talking with people throughout Cook County about what they hoped to see from the state’s attorney. Devine would go on to fill the seat from 1996 to 2008. 

Hayes, who received her master’s degree in social work at Loyola University Chicago, said working in the campaign showed her the “fearlessness” of public servants. 

This year, Hayes leads a campaign of her own, focused on housing accessibility, community participation and criminal justice. She’s campaigning against Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th), who was appointed by Mayor Daniel Biss last February to represent the ward following former Ald. Cicely Fleming’s resignation. 

Endorsed by Fleming and former Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Hayes has local service experience. For the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, she previously worked both as a sexual assault and domestic violence witness court advocate and later as an African American community liaison. 

Hayes’ sister, Belva Joyce Hill, said these varied work experiences enable Hayes to see the big picture as a problem solver. 

“It allows her to see people, places and things from different objective points of view, and that helps a lot,” Hill said, describing her sister as diligent, meticulous and humble. 

Hill and Hayes grew up in the 5th Ward, a community they both described as close-knit and familial. 

That’s why Hayes’ platform centers around keeping families in Evanston. 

“Evanston needs a lot of not only mixed housing and available housing, but people need to be able to stay in their housing and become rooted in this community,” Hayes said. “From newcomers to the city to those who have been here for four or five generations, like my family and myself.” 

If elected to City Council, Hayes said she wants to strengthen reentry programs for people exiting the prison system. For those who are formerly incarcerated, she said it can be difficult to secure employment and housing, and reentry programs provide necessary wraparound services.

Mary Kay Dawson, who met Hayes in 1995 while serving as Devine’s political director, said Hayes’ strong work ethic was especially apparent in her work at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County’s Department of Pharmacy. 

As an administrative analyst, Hayes helped provide medications to uninsured and under-insured patients for clinics, including psychiatry. According to Dawson, she would stay hours after her shift ended. 

“I used to call and say, ‘Why are you still at work?’” Dawson said. “It’s because there was people still waiting, and she wouldn’t just leave.” 

The next City Council cohort will make decisions regarding numerous Evanston initiatives, including the Restorative Housing Program

Hayes said she is proud of former Ald. Robin Rue Simmons’ (5th) work jumpstarting the city’s reparations initiative, and she would hope to address challenges to make the program better. 

“Coming out of the 5th Ward, which was redlined and documented quite well, it’s important for me as an African American that this justice come forth,” she said. “But it is not a stop point … Justice is an ongoing journey and we have to face that with courage.”

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Twitter: @JorjaSiemonsKathy Hayes