The clock has ticked past 5 on a cold Friday evening in January, but the 28th Ward office shows no sign of closing. Behind the counter in the dim lobby, former Ald. Ed Smith, dressed in his overcoat, flips through a pile of mail, opening letters and event announcements and handing them off to a receptionist with instructions.

“Once an alderman, always an alderman,” Smith says, only briefly looking up from his stack of mail.

The current alderman, Jason Ervin, sits in the next room at a makeshift desk set up at the head of a conference room table. Portable cubicle walls separate his temporary office from the permanent, closed-door ones around the perimeter of the room. There’s some reshuffling going on at the ward office, Ervin explains-serious and well-spoken, and as the “low man on the totem pole,” this conference table is home for now.

“I can work anywhere,” says Ervin, 36. “I could work out of my car.”

Two days earlier, with Smith’s blessing, the former Maywood village manager and longtime Smith aide was appointed alderman. Add to that a hefty war chest, billboards displaying his face throughout Austin and Garfield Park, a lengthy resume, and a long list of endorsements, including from many labor unions.

“I’ve been doing this work for a significant amount of time, and I’ve been doing it well,” Ervin said of his work in Maywood. “I don’t have to figure out how a TIF operates – I know that, because I’ve been a TIF administrator. I don’t have to figure out what the city’s portion of a sales tax is, because I’ve done that.”

He has also been a volunteer aide to Smith for the past 14 years and was involved in the ward remapping project following the 2000 Census. Ervin says his top three priorities for the 28th Ward are job creation, public safety and services for residents.

-Sarah Ostman, Austintalks.org

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