What’s your background?
I was born in Englewood and grew up on the Westside of Chicago. My mother was the head of the household and a union worker for over 24 years working at an assembly plant. I attended CPS schools for elementary and high school. I was the first in my family to go to college. My mother taught me to work hard and fight hard and not be limited by my physical condition. There were many opportunities ahead of me, and she encouraged me to take advantage of those opportunities.
My first year of college, my family faced real devastating hardships as many other families around Chicago face every day. My mother was in her mid-50’s at the time, and she did not have a college degree. Her livable wage came from her union job which kept food on the table for my two sisters and me. When that company left Chicago, my mother had to work at two labor jobs (not union) to make up for the one position. It was a challenging time for my family.
I earned my Bachelor of Science in Finance from Eastern Illinois University. Upon graduation, I spent a year in retail banking and from that point, went on to work at Allstate Insurance. I have over 15 years of experience in corporate America. While working at Allstate, I did go back to get my MBA in Finance from Roosevelt University. While at Allstate, one of the opportunities was working at Breakthrough Urban Ministries. It was there; I saw the incredible change when organizations invest in the people in their neighborhoods. At that time, I made an important decision to leave corporate America and work within my community.
I went on to become State Rep. in the 10th District which is primarily Westside and Northside neighborhoods as well.
Were you active in working in the office of your husband, Alderman Jason Ervin?
I volunteered in his office for specific community events. One of them is the “Back to School” event once a year. We do this for our children in underserved communities. It’s a big deal to be able to provide backpacks filled with school supplies, along with other activities.
What would be the next steps you would take if elected to office as City Treasurer?
There is a greater frequency of African Americans to cash checks at the Currency Exchange, or they go to get a loan to pay bills. Some of these loans are from Payday lending services. We need to assist our ‘unbanked’ and ‘underbanked’ population, which is a goal of mine within my first days in office. I want to make sure we help foster the relationship between the banking industry and our everyday citizens. We want to make sure our citizens know they do have access to the banking industry. Our taxpayer dollars are sitting in the banking industry and we ought to have access to those funds. We have to have those funds work for our community.
Also, when we look at the role of the City Treasurer, I believe there should be more responsibility within the treasurer’s office. When we look at the city’s financial analysis, that should be independent of the mayor’s office. I plan to be a watchdog for taxpayer’s dollars.
If you look at the history, the African American community was able to have access to a citywide position was through the office of the city treasurer. In 1971, Joseph Bertrand was the first Black person to occupy a citywide seat. That was 48 years ago. It is now 44 years later, someone from the Westside of Chicago could be in a position to be the first to occupy a citywide seat. This example shows how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go.
What is part of your strategy to engage Southside residents to vote for you?
It’s important when I’m looking and speaking of underserved communities, that’s the Westside and Southside of Chicago. We share the same values and the same challenges. When you look at every city, there are similar values but specifically on the Westside and Southside neighborhoods.
I’m the mother of a 2-year old daughter. In Springfield, I fight with the mindset that it’s not only for the future of my daughter, but it’s the future for all children across Chicago. It’s important to me that there’s no ‘tale of two cities.’ It’s important to me that we’re all treated the same and we have equal opportunities regardless of the zip code.
For more information on her platform, visit: http://melissaforchicago.com