State Rep. Derrick Smith (Handout photo)
State Rep. Derrick Smith represents the 10th District of Illinois, which encompasses part of Lincoln Park on its eastern border. He was appointed by Chicago political leaders to fill the seat vacated by Annazette Collins, who moved to the state senate. Smith is described as a protégé of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. RedEye got in touch with him to find out his thoughts on the most pressing issues facing his district — and whether the Bulls will be back next year.
Tell readers a bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you get involved in politics?
I grew up in Old Town area, a place called North Park. I’ve been involved in the political arena since age of 17, first under [the] leadership of George Dunn, then in [the] 27th ward under the leadership of Jesse White. So, it’s been all of my adult life.
Were you surprised to get the nod for Sen. Collins seat?
Yes, I was. I was very surprised. I’ve enjoyed it. Since an early teenager I’ve been involved with service. When I was a little kid, I worked with seniors in the neighborhood, and by doing so I found I enjoyed working with people and giving back to the community in general. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
How has Secretary of State Jesse White influenced your career?
I’ve known him ever since I was a little. He’s been the major influence. He encouraged us to attain in advance an education and be a productive member in our society. He’s always continued to be involved in public service. It’s very influential just seeing how he carries himself as an elected official.
What are some of the toughest challenges facing your district?
Jobs, economic growth and education for youth are three of the toughest issues for the district. I’m on the Housing Committee working on foreclosure issues, and that’s affecting the east of the district [the Lincoln Park area] as well as the west.
What are the most important issues you want to tackle for Chicago and the state at large?
I want to work closely with the youth. I believe that if we educate our youth they’ll become productive citizens. Right now we have a lot of youth not being able to find employment. When they become adults they need to be equipped to enter the market and find gainful employment. Also I want to work with families — help parents so they can see their kids continue their education.
Is there any difficulty to representing such a sprawling, diverse district?
I’m used to working with diversity. Growing up on east side of the Old Town area, it’s a very diverse lot. I grew up with diversity, so it’s just common with me. I’m looking forward to working with everyone. I was a ward president for the 27th Ward, so I’ve been working with diverse communities pretty much my entire adult life, including high school, and college when I went to Malcolm X and then graduated from DePaul University.
What do you do for fun?
I was very athletic, but these days I can’t play basketball like I used to. Still, I love playing. I also love playing golf, reading and just trying to educate myself on all the issues. The last book I read was “Rich Man, Poor Man.”
Were you upset when the Bulls lost?
Yes, I was very upset. The United Center is in the 10th District, as well. I think we’re on our way, though. Maybe just one or two players away. Same thing that happened in the Jordan era when we had to build a team around him is happening with Derrick Rose.
What would we find on your iPod?
I listen to pretty much all types of music, but I like jazz.