First Indian American elected to City Council

February 23, 2011 3:50:49 PM PST
Ameya Pawar is the alderman-elect for the 47th Ward on Chicago's North Side. Pawar will be the first Indian-American elected to City Council.

He was a virtual unknown when he entered the race but managed to strike a chord with the residents of a ward that has been represented by outgoing alderman Gene Schulter for over 30 years.

One day after the election, it's a bit surreal for the 30-year-old.

"It is amazing. It was really amazing," Pawar told ABC7.

Tuesday night, Pawar had not planned an Election Night party like other aldermanic candidates. But when the numbers started coming in, he headed to Timber Lanes where the bowling alley owners were among his first supporters.

"It was a nail bitter. We were nervous. We were just so hopeful. We were scared. The excitement was unbelievable," said Karen Kuhn, Timber Lanes.

Alderman Schulter did not seek re-election but did back his former chief of staff in the election, candidate Tom O'Donnell.

Pawar, the son of Indian immigrants and an emergency preparedness expert working on his third master's degree, won with 50 percent of the vote.

"I don't think it mattered what my background was. They just wanted to get involved. They wanted a say in what was going on in their local government," said Pawar.

"I don't think people really cared what he was. It's what he stood for," said Bob Kuhn, Timber Lanes.

Pawar promises to have an elected ward council to guide his actions at City Hall and to give $50,000 of his salary to help offset the city's deficit or offer community grants. He says the city's budget issues motivated him to get involved.

"We have a lot of issues that we have to work through. But it's what you do in the private sector, non-profit sector when you have problems or issues, you bring in new eyes to a set of problems and you work on them together," said Pawar.

Pawar says he stands on the shoulders of other prominent Indian American as well as his parents and grandparents.