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Bridgeport, Chinatown, McKinley Park

Anabel Abarca Picked To Lead 12th Ward After Cardenas Resigns

Former Ald. George Cardenas resigned when he was elected to the Cook County Board of Review. Abarca was his chief of staff.

Anabel Abarca grew up on the North Side, but has lived in McKinley Park for the past eight years. She was previously the chief of staff to former Ald. George Cardenas (12th).
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MCKINLEY PARK — Anabel Abarca, former chief of staff to outgoing Ald. George Cardenas, has been picked to lead the 12th Ward.

Abarca, a Northwest Side native and McKinley Park resident, was one of four people who applied last month to fill the 12th Ward seat after Cardenas announced he’d resign Nov. 30. A real estate attorney, she served as Cardenas’ chief of staff 2012-2016. She also plans to run for the seat in the February election.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot picked Abarca. Abarca said she’s excited and “very honored” to assume the role of 12th Ward alderperson.

Among Abarca’s top priorities for the ward are addressing public safety concerns and “making sure the residents of the 12th Ward know who I am, know I’m available, and let them know I’m going to be working from day one. There’s no ramp up — its 100 percent go,” she said.

Abarca said residents shouldn’t expect any disruption in city services as she takes over leadership of the ward.

“Anabel Abarca is a pillar of the 12th Ward community,” Lightfoot said in a statement Monday. “Her passion for public service and deep connection to her community makes her the best candidate to serve the residents of McKinley Park, Brighton Park and Little Village.”

Cardenas, who was elected to the 12th Ward seat in 2003 and served as Lightfoot’s deputy floor leader, had planned to resign for months. He won his primary bid for the Cook County Board of Review and was elected to the seat after running unopposed in the general election last month.

Abarca graduated from Taft High School and DePaul University and received a master’s degree from Arizona State University in public administration. Most recently, she graduated from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law.

Before Abarca was Cardenas’ chief of staff, she was a congressional aide to Rep. Mike Quigley and worked on the 2011 congressional campaign for Tammy Duckworth.

Abarca has served on the board for nonprofits Latinos Progresando, McKinley Park Development Council and the El Valor Associate Board.

She is the fourth person Lightfoot has appointed to City Council in the past year.

Lightfoot picked United Airlines executive Nicole Lee to lead the 11th Ward after Patrick Daley Thompson was convicted of tax fraud. She selected Monique Scott to replace her brother, Michael Scott, after he left the 24th Ward. And she appointed Timothy Knudsen, former chair of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, to lead the 43rd Ward after Michele Smith resigned.

Abarca’s appointment will go before the full City Council Wednesday for a vote.

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