At least five candidates aim to replace veteran Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), who will not run for reelection.

LITTLE VILLAGE — Earlier this summer, veteran Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) announced he would not seek re-election for the City Council seat he has held for more than 20 years.

Muñoz, who was appointed to replace then-Ald. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia by then-Mayor Richard Daley in 1993, called his decision to step aside the “right thing to do” rather than have the mayor appoint his successor.

“I believe it should be an open field,” he said.

Muñoz recently told Block Club he was “seriously” considering a run for mayor following Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek re-election.

Now, at least five candidates aim to replace the longtime alderman with hopes of bringing more resources to the 22nd ward — an area that includes all or parts of Little Village, Brighton Park, Archer Heights and Lawndale.

Carlos “Charlie” Ferral

Carlos “Charlie” Ferral’s decided to run for alderman to bring much-needed services to the 22nd Ward, an area he has called home since the ’70s.

The president of Governmental Solutions, a consulting firm that works with public and private companies and political campaigns, Ferral said he is focused on building two high schools and a community center in the Ward, while revitalizing the 26th Street business corridor. 

“We need a champion to really bring in and start demanding services that we pay for,” the 52-year-old Little Village resident said.  “Enough is enough, we want our fair share that we pay taxes for.” 

Carlos “Charlie” Ferral, president of Governmental Solutions, is running for 22nd Ward alderman. Credit: Provided

Ferral has worked as a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as a political director for Teamsters Local 726, as an assistant to former 25th Ward Alderman Juan M. Soliz, and has coordinated campaigns for Democratic candidates. 

Ferral plans to “fix the ward with a 10 step plan,” which includes bringing a trade school to the ward, advocating for slot machines at O’Hare and Midway that would bring more revenue to the neighborhoods and target streets in need of revitalization. 

“I’ve been fighting for my community all my life,” Ferral said. “I’ve always been behind the scenes, but now it’s time to step up and take charge.”

Neftalie Gonzalez

Neftalie Gonzalez said he was inspired to run for alderman nearly two decades ago in an effort to address the lack of upkeep to neighborhood streets and the rampant “gang activity” in Little Village.

A former Chicago Police officer, this will be Neftalie Gonzalez’s third time running for alderman in the 22nd Ward. He previously ran against Muñoz in 2011 and 2015.

Gonzalez is founder of nonprofit OpportUnity-OportUnidad, an organization focused on bringing employment opportunities and mentoring to the students and adults in the community. He also owns Mundo Musical, a Little Village record shop that frequently hosts musicians like Chiquis Rivera and Gerardo Ortiz. 

If elected, he said “100 percent of the resources allocated to this community will go to the community.” 

Neftalie Gonzalez is founder of nonprofit OpportUnity-OportUnidad, is running for 22nd Ward alderman. Credit: Provided

Gonzalez said his decisions as alderman will be dictated by residents’ needs, whether that be street improvements, surveillance cameras or speed bumps.

“I’m there to be the voice of the people, whatever the community needs that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. 

The 54-year-old candidate aims to bring more jobs to the ward, more after school activities for youth and more consistent city services to Little Village and other ward neighborhoods.

“It’s important that families feel safe in the yard and not be concerned about being shot while playing outside,” he said. “That’s the community I want to build here.”

Richard Juarez

Richard Juarez said the prevalence of asthma and health issues — exacerbated by industries in La Villita — sparked his interest to run for alderman.

Juarez, who has devoted his professional career to public health, questioned how civic leaders could allow for operations like Crawford Power Plant and other polluters to operate in the neighborhood and continue to harm the community. The plant was shut down in 2012 and Hilco plans to build a 1-million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at the site. 

“Here I am in public health trying to do what is right for people, and…we take a step forward but because of [our civic leaders], they push us a step back,” Juarez said.

Richard Juarez, director of longterm services and support at Lawndale Christian Health Center, is running for 22nd Ward alderman. Credit: Provided

The 51-year-old currently works as director of longterm services and support at Lawndale Christian Health Center, which provides health and wellness to the aging population.

He has also served on many committees and organizations including the City of Chicago Age-Friendly Advisory Commission, the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly board of directors, the Illinois Association of Community Care Programs Care Providers board of directors, and has chaired the La Villita Community Church board of directors.

Juarez, who moved to Little Village in the ‘80s, wants to advocate for more public health services in the ward, generate more jobs for Little Village residents through infrastructure projects and bring more resources for organizations in the community.  Juarez doesn’t aim to “reinvent the wheel” but rather “fight for more state and federal funding” for organizations already doing great work in the area.

If elected, Juarez said he would only serve for two terms.

“My first term is to see the condition [of the ward] and create initiatives that I want to create. The second term would be to assure that they are being carried out, and then step down,” Juarez said.

Lisette Lopez

Born and raised in Little Village, Lisette Lopez looks to challenge the status quo of leadership that has governed the 22nd ward for decades. Lopez said the ward is in need of “true change” and an “advocate” that’s going to fight for the community, not another alderman bolstered by a political organization.

Lopez, a 32-year-old outreach director at Oak Street Health, a primary care clinic serving seniors on Medicare, said her decision to run for alderman stemmed from “frustrations with the lack of resources” in La Villita and across the ward.

Lopez previously worked as a family case manager for the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Women Infant and Children program. More than 10 years ago, she began volunteering at Urban Life Skills working with at-risk youth. More recently, Lopez co-founded Imago Dei with St. Agnes parish to engage youth in an anti-violence program through art and faith. The program paints murals over graffiti-covered areas across Little Village.

Lisette Lopez, outreach director at Oak Street Health, is running for 22nd Ward alderman. Credit: Provided

In her time working in the health care industry, social services and organizing in the community, Lopez said she has witnessed a great need for resources across the ward. 

If elected, Lopez would work to reduce crime and foster a relationship between the community and the police department, help small businesses open up in the ward, improve schools and bring necessary health care services to the area.

“I intend to be an advocate for the common resident,” Lopez said. “I know I can make a difference, and I know I can be the voice of La Villita.”

Lopez takes pride in the grassroots campaign she is launching supported by everyday La Villita residents, and said that she is “not backed by any political organization.”

Michael D. Rodriguez

Michael D. Rodriguez is entering the 22nd Ward race with support from outgoing Ald. Muñoz and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, State Rep. Celina Villanueva, and the robust backing from the 22nd Ward Independent Political Organization.

“I am humbled to carry forward the legacy of leadership of the 22nd Ward, which for more than 35 years has been the heart and soul of the progressive movement of Chicago,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

The lifelong Little Village resident is the executive officer of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Rodriguez previously worked as director of Little Village-based nonprofit Enlace Chicago.

Michael D. Rodriguez, executive officer of the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, is running for 22nd Ward alderman. Credit: Provided

Rodriguez also serves as chair of the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations board, on the executive board of the Juvenile Justice Institute and the advisory board of the Second Federal Self-Help Credit Union.

The 40-year-old Democratic committeeman of the 22nd Ward aims to “improve the quality of life” for residents throughout the ward by working to address youth violence, building community asset, and “investing in schools” to make them safe spaces that also serve as community centers.

“I want to govern inclusively,” Rodriguez told Block Club Chicago.  “I want to bring people together — people of different races, ethnicities, age groups to create a better ward.”

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Pilsen, Little Village and West Loop reporterrnrnmauricio@blockclubchi.orgnnPilsen, Little Village and West Loop Twitter @MauricioPena