City Council Member Peter Braithwaite of Evanston’s Second Ward announced Monday he will be stepping down from his seat, ending more than 10 years representing one of the City’s most diverse wards.
He said his resignation will take effect at the July 11 City Council meeting.
Braithwaite, who recently lost his mother, made his announcement near the close of the June 27 City Council meeting.
“It has been a huge honor and privilege not only to serve and represent the members of the Second Ward here on council,” he said, “but being a part of some amazing decisions and meeting some incredible people along the way.”
He said he planned to follow up the announcement with written comments to the residents of his ward.
“Over the past several months, there have been some life-changing experiences that myself and my family have gone through, and it has been a deep period of reflection,” he said in explaining his decision-making process. “I’ve had many conversations, deep conversations with some of my peers. I’ve worked very closely with some members of of the community.”
Upon hearing Braithwaite’s statement, Mayor Daniel Biss said he appreciated the fact that Council Members would have a chance to say more before Braithwaite’s last meeting.
“It’s obvious, but it needs to be said aloud. Whatever you want to say about this council, experience is not our forte, and you’ve brought it: experience,” he said to Braithwaite. “You’ve been so generous in sharing what you’ve learned during your time on this council with those of us who are new. That’s been a lot. And it’s, it’s going to be really, really really felt after July 11.”
Long history in a diverse ward
The youngest of five children and the son of Jamaican immigrants, Braithwaite grew up in the Second Ward he would later represent.
Then-Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl tapped him to fill the Second Ward seat in 2011, when then-Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste left to fill a judicial vacancy.
Braithwaite brought a record of strong community involvement, including serving as interim Director of Project SOAR at the McGaw YMCA.
On the council, he was was a strong voice in minority hiring issues and chaired the city’s Reparations Committee as the group began putting into action the city’s historic decision on reparations for past racial injustices.
Braithwaite faced a strong challenge in the 2021 election, winning by fewer than 75 votes over Darlene Cannon, one of a number of candidates running on an activist agenda.
The Second Ward, which is located around the Dempster-Dodge area and extends to Evanston Township High School, is one of the City’s most diverse wards – home to a number of ethnic groups and, next to the Fifth Ward, home to the city’s largest minority population.
Braithwaite recently started a new job as Director of Procurement, Diversity and Community Engagement at Northwestern University.
He said after the June 27 meeting that the new job – which would mean he would likely have to recuse himself in town-gown issues – wasn’t the driving factor in his decision.
“The main thing is … it’s just time for me to reprioritize my life,” he said. “This experience has been tremendous. I’ve had the opportunity, as I shared before, to be a part of some great decisions. And when I look at everything that I have in front of me, I need to focus my priorities heavily.”
He is the second member of the City Council to step down in the past six months.
Council Member Cicely Fleming of the Ninth Ward stepped down from her seat in January, also following the loss of her mother.
Once Fleming’s resignation became official, Biss opened an application process for candidates interested in filling the position, and a community forum was held.
With the consent of the City Council, Biss then appointed Juan Geracaris to Fleming’s seat until next year, when a special election will be held to fill the remainder of Fleming’s term, which runs until 2025.
Biss and the other council members at the meeting didn’t discuss what process would be used to fill the Second Ward position.
Braithwaite had only positive remarks regarding his work on the City Council. “For the period of time that I’ve had an opportunity to work with the citizens here and behind this desk, it’s been transformative.”