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Ex-Chicago Ald. MIchele Smith’s successor is Timmy Knudsen

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appointed Timmy Knudsen, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, to be 43rd Ward alderman.

If approved by the City Council, which is expected to vote on the appointment this week, Knudsen would replace Ald. Michele Smith. The ward, which includes most of Lincoln Park, has been without a sitting alderman since August, when Smith retired unexpectedly.

Knudsen is a University of Illinois College of Law graduate who worked for law firm Croke Fairchild Morgan & Beres on venture capital and cryptocurrency issues before taking a leave to pursue the position. Knudsen is a longtime Lightfoot supporter and donated to her campaign in 2019.

“Timmy Knudsen has singled himself out as an exceptional leader in the 43rd ward community,” Lightfoot said in a Monday release confirming the appointment. “His passion for connecting with his neighbors and encouraging hope, energy, and opportunity for Chicago residents makes him uniquely situated to serve as Alderman. Timmy is deeply connected to the needs of 43rd ward residents and has the skills to communicate effectively, lean on the expertise of trusted messengers without ego, and encourage civic engagement.”

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The release said that in addition to providing legal advice to startup companies and investors, Knudsen founded a pro-bono program at his firm, which represents LGBTQ asylum-seekers in Chicago and Tijuana, Mexico.

“As I have throughout my legal career, my public service chairing the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals and my time as a grassroots organizer, I will be an advocate and consensus builder as alderman. I bring a passion for private sector results to public service and am honored to have a new way to give back to the community I call home,” Knudsen said in the release.

If not a familiar name, Knudsen’s might be a familiar face: He was featured on the TV show “House Hunters” as he renovated his Lincoln Park condo in 2018.

“People I work with in local politics have definitely seen the episode, more so here because they see it’s a Chicago episode and they’ll want to watch it,” he told the Tribune in 2020. He said he’d also applied to appear on the competitive reality show “The Amazing Race,” but that producers went in a different direction.

Smith was in her third term and joins more than a dozen council members who have left or aren’t seeking reelection next year. Knudsen, if confirmed, would serve out the remainder of Smith’s term but would have to run for election in February to retain the seat.

This would be Lightfoot’s third aldermanic appointment in six months.

In June, Lightfoot selected outgoing 24th Ward Ald. Michael Scott’s sister, Monique Scott, to replace him over 18 other applicants.

Michael Scott left the City Council to take a job in the private sector at the Cinespace film studio. Not long after, he became Lightfoot’s pick for a seat on the Chicago Board of Education. The Scotts’ father, Michael Scott Sr., was Mayor Richard M. Daley’s cable commissioner and later president of the Park District board and the Chicago Board of Education.

In March, the mayor picked Nicole Lee, a United Airlines director to serve as 11th Ward alderman. Lee, the first Asian-American woman to serve on the Chicago City Council, replaced Patrick Daley Thompson following a February felony conviction for tax evasion and lying to banking regulators. Lee’s father is Gene Lee, a one time top aide to Daley.

Former mayors had their share of appointments of the politically connected and those with family ties: Rahm Emanuel appointed Deb Mell to succeed her father, Dick Mell, as 33rd Ward alderman in 2013. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Carrie Austin to the position her husband, Lemuel Austin, held as 34th Ward alderman and also appointed Margaret Laurino to succeed her father, Anthony, as 39th Ward alderman.

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