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Ald. Anabel Abarca Sworn In To Lead Southwest Side’s 12th Ward

The former chief of staff to George Cardenas replaces him as he heads to the Cook County Board of Review.

Ald. Anabel Abarca (12th) is sworn in at City Hall on Dec. 14, 2022, after being appointed to replace George Cardenas, a former alderman who was recently elected to the Cook County Board of Review.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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MCKINLEY PARK — Anabel Abarca became the newest member of City Council after being sworn in as 12th Ward alderperson Wednesday morning.

Abarca was appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this week to fill the 12th Ward seat left vacant by former Ald. George Cardenas. Her appointment passed the Rules Committee Tuesday and the City Council Wednesday with a vote of 44-0.

“Hard work, integrity, love of family, love of our city and uplifting others — these are the principles and values I was taught as a child and that so many of our communities share,” she said during a statement on the City Council floor. “It is these principles, these lessons, this work ethic that I take with me and pledge to give my 100 percent to echarle ganas siempre [always work hard] and to put them into action as I serve the residents of 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 February’s election.

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 — it’s 100 percent go,” she said previously.

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.

The 12th Ward includes McKinley Park and Brighton Park.

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.

Abarca 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.

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