Alderman Delores Holmes has lived for over 60 years in the 5th Ward she now represents on the Evanston City Council.
Holmes was born in Spring Hill, Tenn., but her family moved to Evanston when she was just three years old.
Holmes built a deep network of friends in the ward during 26 years as a social service agency administrator. She retied in 2002 as director of Family Focus, an agency located in the ward that deals with social welfare issues involving children and youths.
She then served as an observer at City Council meetings for the League of Women Voters and in 2005 won nearly 76 percent of the vote in a five-way race for the City Council seat being vacated by four-term alderman Joe Kent.
Holmes says she hasn’t decided whether she’ll run for a second term next year.
Holmes has sought to bring new development to the ward while continuing to keep the area affordable.
She said her biggest disappointment as alderman so far came in April 2006 when the City Council rejected 5-4 plans for Darrow Corners, a 27-unit low-income rent-to-own housing development on the northwest corner of Church Street and Darrow Avenue.
The project, sponsored by the non-profit Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, drew fire from some nearby residents who argued it would provide unfair competition for owners of small rental properties in the neighborhood.
Others suggested that the neighborhood, which had seen little new construction in decades, needed more market-rate housing, not deeply subsidized units.
Holmes says the project was misunderstood, and would have been very beneficial to people who want to live in Evanston but make less than $50,000 a year.
“They have a right to live in this community,” Holmes said. “Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re a criminal. I don’t believe that.”
Despite the defeat of that project, the ward has begun to see some new development, including a new multi-cultural arts center and recording studio called Boocoo at 1823 Church St.
The center hosts yoga classes, music lessons and fitness training. Holmes said it is also the first development in town to feature a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Holmes said the numerous activities and opportunities at Boocoo speak to her beliefs about the necessity for diversity in the tax base and the community as a whole.
Holmes has also backed efforts to develop new zoning plans for largely vacant industrially zoned areas in the ward along the former Mayfair railroad right of way.
After several years in development, those plans are expected to be ready for council action later this year.
Even before her election Holmes was one of the leaders of a successful community effort to have the rail corridor designated a tax increment financing district, the sixth such district established in Evanston.
Holmes says the city faces many problems, including maintaining diversity and limiting tax increases while still making up the gap in police and fire pension funding.
“I don’t have any silver bullets” to solve those problems, Holmes said, but she says there are things that can be done to help address the concerns.
“Diversity comes with a price,” Holmes said. “We have to understand that first.”
Delores Holmes, 5th Ward
Born: April 21, 1938 in Spring Hill, Tenn.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Northeastern Illinois University. Master’s in Education from National Louis University.
Lived in Evanston: Since 1941.
Occupation: Retired social service agency administrator.
Public service: Alderman, 5th Ward, since 2005.
Family: Widowed, seven grandchildren.
Contact the alderman
Delores A. Holmes
Home: 1715 McDaniel Ave., 60201
Phone: (847) 373-2965
Ward meetings: 7 p.m. third Thursday each month at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster Ave.