Ald. Will Burns (4) sent his resignation to City Clerk Susana Mendoza yesterday, dated Feb 10, putting an end to his time on City Council with a couple sentences: “I am writing you to tender my resignation from the Chicago City Council effective February 29, 2016. It has been my great honor and privilege to serve the people of the Fourth Ward and the City of Chicago.” Burns’ new job as senior advisor and director of Midwest policy at Airbnb starts today.
Rather than preserve his account for posterity, or re-direct followers, Burns simply deleted his @Ald4_WillBurns Twitter account. His Facebook page is still active, but his most recent posts are auto-shares of his newsletter, the latest of which has a simple copy and paste of a press release from the Mayor’s office detailing how his replacement will be found. No personal note. Burns’ final appearance as alderman in the Council Chambers was before the Zoning Committee last week, to advocate for a new billboard that seven residents signed up to oppose.
His only formal press statement announcing his departure was on February 1st, a paragraph outlining some of his legislative accomplishments: new housing, retail, improved infrastructure, job creation, a higher minimum wage, and making neighborhoods the mid-South Side and South Loop safe and walkable. It ended, “I can look back at the last five years and see the change that we have created together, and I believe that our momentum will continue in the future.”
Few believe this marks Burns’ permanent exit from elected office, and several alluded to that fact during his official goodbye at the full City Council meeting last month, which was overshadowed by a debate over changes made to an Inspector General oversight ordinance and President Obama’s visit to Springfield. “You will come back to public life because it’s part of your calling,” Mayor Emanuel told him.
While many aldermen were surprised at the timing of Burns’ announcement, a few said privately that Burns didn’t have much of a taste for the job. During their goodbyes, some aldermen joked that they often disagreed with him, but knew they’d see him in 366 days, referring to the city’s revolving door restrictions.
“I think you’re going to be a millionaire,” Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Burns’ neighbor said, to laughs, “Don’t forget your friends.”
“It’s not over,” Ald. Walter Burnett (27) said of Burns’ political career during his goodbye on the council floor. “Will and I spar sometimes in the boxing ring. Will can take a punch and Will can give a punch… He never gives up, he bobs and weaves, and he makes things happen. I look forward to sparring with you in the future.”
Ald. Ed Burke said of his in his 47 years in City Council that Burns was “one of the best.”
Burke will soon know if Burns’ replacement will be one of the best: the search committee tasked with finding the new Fourth Ward alderman must submit their top three picks to Mayor Emanuel by this Friday.