PILSEN — A firefighter and paramedic is running for 25th Ward alderman, hoping to represent the newly redrawn ward that includes the two neighborhoods where he grew up.
Daniel Montes announced earlier this month he’s running for the City Council seat in next year’s election. The 25th Ward was reconfigured to include all of Pilsen and an eastern part of Little Village in this year’s ward mapping change.
Montes is running to unseat first-term Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who was elected in 2019. Sigcho-Lopez announced his reelection bid earlier this month.
Montes lives in Little Village with his wife, Jocelyn, and their two dogs. Being drawn into the revamped 25th Ward was the push he needed to run for alderman, he said.
“I feel more compelled than ever,” he said. “It’s the neighborhoods that pretty much raised me and exposed me to the adversities there are to be a young, male Latino. Growing up, it made me want to do something about it — to face it head-on and still come back to the neighborhood that raised me to be tough.”
Montes and his family spent his earliest years in Little Village before moving to Pilsen. After attending elementary school and high school in Pilsen, Montes attended City Colleges of Chicago before being accepted into a nursing program at University of Illinois Chicago.
Montes became a paramedic for the city before also being trained as a firefighter.
Growing up in Little Village and Pilsen puts Montes in a unique position to understand the needs and nuances of the neighborhoods, he said.
Montes’ background is primarily in health care and serving the community as a firefighter paramedic, nurse and board president of a nonprofit to support Latino first responders, he said. He said these roles have given him valuable on-the-ground experiences in the neighborhood.
“I’m pretty much what you call a byproduct of good programming, or when the village comes together to raise a child and they want to see him flourish or succeed,” Montes said. “I feel like I can cater to [neighbors], or just understand their language and meet them at the level that they want a representative at, just being from the neighborhood.”
With public safety a key issue on the Southwest Side, Montes said he would support violence prevention and programs for youth in addition to working with the Police Department to make people feel safe.
“I’m not here to try to reinvent the wheel,” Montes said. “It’s just really unlocking what the community has in a proven system that has worked; or maybe if it hasn’t, then it’s time to try something new. And working with those community leaders and hearing them out, because there’s a lot of great ideas, but sometimes they get disregarded.”
Montes also said issues around gentrification and displacing long-time residents would be among his top priorities.
“When it came time to buy a property, I was displaced [from Pilsen], so I know that feeling is unfortunate, and that’s something I definitely feel like I need to address,” he said. “One would think, ‘Oh, you made it, you’re a city worker, you have a great opportunity career path to actually purchase a house’ — no, it’s not true.”
Montes said the skills he’s gained as a first responder — being trustworthy, able to communicate, being “a man for others” — would help him serve as alderman.
“I want to make sure that people are heard, be the voice,” he said. “I want to be that advocate. Having a health care background is very important because I understand the patients and what they’re going through, and sometimes you need to be that middle person to make sure that their needs are being met. Same thing as in the community.”
Montes is the second person to announce a challenge to Sigcho-Lopez; CPS educator Aida Flores announced this month she’s running for the seat again after vying for the seat in 2019 when ex-Ald. Danny Solis decided not to run.
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