33rd Ward Working Families

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Struggling Mell asks dad, "Do you want your seat back?"

The boss returned, if only for one morning.

Former 33rd Ward alderman Dick Mell reappeared at the city council chambers Wednesday to chat with ex-colleagues and his daughter, Deb Mell, who now holds the job he's kept in the family for more than four decades.

"You want your seat back?" Deb Mell asked, according to a report from council-watchers The Daily Line.

The joke—if it was one—is a reminder that the Mells are one of a few lasting dynasties still able to consider a public office a piece of family property.

The elder Mell, a prominent figure in the infamous Chicago Machine, held power for nearly forty years before stepping aside in 2013 to hand the seat to his daughter, Deb. But while the handoff was smooth—an appointment by mayor Rahm Emanuel spared Mell having to go before voters—the resulting time hasn't gone quite so well.

Deb Mell has struggled through a clumsy and undistinguished tenure in office, even getting caught in an ethics scandal for accepting free office rent from her father, a registered lobbyist. Mell's signature ward achievement, a controversial traffic diversion project in Ravenswood Manor, also made headlines after neighborhood opposition tanked the project.

Deb Mell held onto her job with some help from her dad's old ward machine in 2015, but the elder Mell was ultimately ousted from his post as ward committeeman the following cycle.

Ward voters will have the opportunity to clear the Mells from the political ranks in February 2019, when the aldermanic seat again goes up for election.

"While few would argue that Dick Mell isn't the more competent of the two, we wouldn't be eager to see him return," says Chris Poulos of 33rd Ward Working Families. "This is one of the most diverse places in the United States, and we've had 50 years of rule under one last name. It's time to move on."