Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who began her second term as State Representative of the 10th District on Wednesday, January 9 as she took the oath of office to become a member of the 101st Illinois General Assembly, is looking to become Chicago’s next City Treasurer in the February 26 municipal election.
Just in December, Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who is married to Chicago Alderman Jason Ervin, was voted co-chair of the Illinois House Democratic Women’s Caucus.
Born on Chicago’s South Side and raised in the West Side’s Austin neighborhood, Melissa is the youngest of three daughters raised by her single mother, Eula, who worked hard at a glass manufacturing factory to make ends meet. Melissa became the first person in her family to attend college, even as, after 20 years at her job, Eula’s plant closed, leaving her mother without a job.
After graduating from college, Melissa went to work for Allstate Insurance and rose through the ranks, overseeing regional offices. Allstate paid for her to work at a charity based organization in Garfield Park called Breakthrough Urban Ministries, where she worked with homeless clients trying to turn their lives around.
“I was able to see firsthand the effects on poverty in my community. I knew then that I had to have a more direct effect on what was going on around me,” Melissa says.
Soon after, in 2016, she ran for and won a seat to become a state representative. As a legislator, Melissa sponsored the improved Illinois education funding formula that directed over $221 million in additional funding to Chicago Public Schools.
She was also the chief sponsor of bipartisan legislation that protected funding for childcare assistance, a service that allows many working parents to stay in the workforce.
Melissa and her husband live in Garfield Park with their young daughter, Jeneva. Melissa is the youth superintendent at Mt. Vernon Church and participates in a youth mentoring program for teenage girls. She also founded a woman’s book club that draws members from Roscoe Village to Lawndale.
N’DIGO: Why is City Treasurer an important office for Chicago’s communities?
Melissa Conyears-Ervin: The City Treasurer is an important office because Chicagoans are faced with numerous obstacles to overcome on a daily basis. Many of these obstacles are the same issues that my family faced growing up. Being raised by a single mother, money was always tight, like it is for so many families in Chicago today.
Financial security at the city level helps ensure the entire city continues to prosper and provides opportunities to Chicago’s residents. Having sound financial practices in the city helps make our communities safer and I think that safety is a universal issue facing all of Chicagoans, but it especially affects working-class families.
If you win the election, how specifically can you use the Office of City Treasurer to enhance economic development on the South and West Sides of Chicago?
My vision for this office is to focus my private sector and financial training on ways to bring development to Chicago’s neighborhoods. Chicago’s billions of dollars of municipal deposits should be leveraged to help Chicago’s communities grow at the same rate, regardless of their zip code. I also plan to use the office to help more families become financially educated. I’m running to protect the city of Chicago’s investments and to ensure that the money Chicago invests goes to benefit all of us.
Can the City Treasurer specifically direct tax dollars to say, minority banks or minority businesses?
One of the primary responsibilities of the Treasurer is to invest the city’s money into a pool of municipal depositories. I plan to explore opportunities that will benefit minority banks.
Does the City Treasurer have anything to do with all the empty land on the South Side left vacant by the demolition of all of the public housing projects?
The City Treasurer does not have direct input on what the city does with vacant lots that were previously public housing projects. What I would like to see the city do with the vacant property is request input from members in the community and then work to ensure that the residents in the area have a say in how this land is transformed.
You are a state representative. Why do you want to be City Treasurer?
I want to be City Treasurer because of my unique background and upbringing. I saw the struggle that my mom endured on a daily basis to make ends meet, her will to succeed and to never give up.
Chicago’s billions of dollars should be leveraged to help Chicago’s communities grow at the same rate, regardless of their zip code.
What are your qualifications for the office of City Treasurer?
My qualifications for City Treasurer include my education background with a degree in Finance from Eastern Illinois University and M.B.A. from Roosevelt University, along with over 15 years of private sector experience.
How do you position yourself differently from the other two candidates who are running for the office?
Chicago’s next Treasurer should be an independent watchdog of taxpayer dollars that is dedicated to preservation of capital, liquidity to meet our obligations, and an investment philosophy that prioritizes our neighborhoods.
I am the only candidate in this race who has experienced what can happen to a family when the rug is pulled out from under you and understands how a family budget is crucial to a household not only surviving, but thriving.
My mother lost her manufacturing job, yet raised my two sisters and me on her own. Because of her perseverance and strength, I am where I am today. With a master’s degree in finance, a decade of experience in the private sector, and a record of public service in Springfield, I am the only candidate in this race with the diverse background to properly prioritize and steward Chicago’s investments.
What is the City Treasurer’s involvement with Chicago’s pension funds and are there any specific plans that you have to address the pension funds issue?
The City of Chicago has to come to an agreement with the pension holders on the solution and we all must move forward together. There’s no reason we cannot have stable retirement systems, fair taxes, and spending available for the programs we support.
What do you plan to take from outgoing City Treasurer Kurt Summers’ tenure and incorporate into your own agenda?
The Catalyst Fund that Treasurer Summers started is an excellent idea, but after two years, it has yet to have the involvement of partner investors. I would like to look into expanding this program, which helps invest in neighborhood opportunity projects that help infuse capital into neighborhoods across the city.
What’s something personal that people may not know about you?
I am a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
What quotes or affirmations do you live by?
The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.
What do you do for fun?
With the demanding campaign schedule, I love spending time with family and friends.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
Chicago has too many good options to choose just one!