Hesitantly but in no uncertain terms, Marilyn Morales, a lesbian activist and Chicago Park District operations manager, told Windy City Times that she plans on running for city clerk this February.
"I'm in it," Morales said.
If elected, Morales would not only be the first lesbian to hold that position, but she would become highest-ranking gay person in city government. She would also become the first Latina to hold the position.
Morales announced her run on Facebook last week. Since, she has gained a small online following of friends and colleagues. "With over 15 years of dedicated public service in city government and community advocacy, Marilyn is committed to expanding accessibility, responsiveness, and transparency to the Office of the City Clerk for the residents of Chicago," her Facebook page boasts.
Morales grew up in the Humboldt Park Neighborhood of Chicago, and came out as a lesbian while at Public Park High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Aurora University and went on to get her master's degree from University of Illinois-Chicago. For the last 16 years, Morales has been working as operations manager for the Chicago Park District.
"I'm a city nut. I'm a city diehard. I love working for the city," she said.
Morales has a history of activism in the LGBT and Puerto Rican communities. In the 1980s, she helped start LLENA ( Latina Lesbians in Nuestro Ambiente ) , the first Latina lesbian group in Chicago. She is a former board member of Amigas Latinas, and just this year she collaborated on a project honoring 1980s HIV/AIDS activist Danny Sotomayor at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.
"I think that my message really is this is an opportunity to elevate the whole discussion of people of color who happen to be gay or lesbian really getting much more involved in the political arena and what that means at this time," Morales said. But she was quick to add that she is not in this race to make history.
"I'm not running as a gay person or as a Puerto Rican woman," said Morales. "That's not my platform. That's my makeup. That's who I am."
So why does she want to run for city clerk?
"I feel that I am very qualified to run for this position," Morales explained. "There's a great job and you know you can do it, that you have the skill set, you have the experience, you have the character, and you have the integrity; I'm applying for that job."
Morales praised efforts by current City Clerk, Miguel del Valle to modernize Chicago government and make information about things like parking permits more accessible to residents. She promised to continue those efforts if elected.
"That department can do so much more," she said.
Morales also said that while she's officially a Democrat, she considers herself an "independent advocate for the people." While she's never had to run for office, she's not daunted by the challenge. "I'm not a politically established person, you know. I'm glad I'm not."