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Get to Know Toni

Q: How did you get started in public service? 
A: I became interested in public service at a young age. As a high school student my social studies teacher invited me to volunteer on a campaign for Katie Mcwatt. She was the first African American woman to run for City Council in my hometown of St. Paul, MN. So I joined the campaign, knocking doors and stuffing envelopes and loving it. Katie's strength and determination really inspired me, and it was because of that campaign that I would eventually dedicate my life to public service. 

Q: Who do you look up to or most aspire to be like?
A: I was a teacher early in my career during the Nixon trials. Someone who really impressed me during the hearings and another person who inspired my career in public service was Barbara Jordan, a Congresswoman from Texas, a civil rights leader and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Q: Why do you want to be mayor at this moment in time and why do you feel optimistic about the future of Chicago?
A: I'm optimistic because I think we’ve faced stiff challenges in the past and overcome them. We have a great tradition in Chicago of addressing the challenges we face. I was an alderman for 19 years and one of the things I appreciated most about that was the opportunity to strengthen our local public schools and our communities. I’m a teacher by profession and I know that education is an escalator. At the moment we have an education system where you can basically determine the quality of the education by the zip code you live in, just as you can determine the life expectancy by their zip code. So there’s a real challenge about opportunity and access to opportunity.

One of the things I've enjoyed most in my time in public service was the opportunity to rebuild neighborhoods that were struggling. We built 1500 units of housing in the 4th ward in my term as alderman, most of it affordable rental housing for working families. So community building has always been something that’s really important to me and very attractive about being alderman and about being mayor.

Q: Are you a cat or dog person?
A: Dog person. In my free time I like to rescue dogs. 

Q: Are you a Cubs or Sox fan? Or is there another important sports team in your life?
A: Go Sox! 

Q: What is your favorite food in Chicago?
A: One of my favorites is Pizza Capri in Hyde Park - deep dish, definitely!

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