Marlene Fisher, a University of Chicago information technology (IT) administrator, Grand Crossing resident and master gardener, is running for alderman for the 5th Ward.

“I’ve done a lot in the Grand Crossing community, and I plan to bring that experience to other neighborhoods in (the 5th Ward), dealing with the distinctive and unique needs of each area,” Fisher said.

Fisher was born in Jonestown, Mississippi and moved to Decatur in central Illinois as a young child. She enrolled at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois in 1990, where she earned a degree in Business Information Systems.

Since graduating, she has worked in IT in the public and private sector for over 25 years.

She moved to South Shore in 1998 and five years later joined the technology team at Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School in Grand Crossing, a Chicago Public School (CPS). She also coached the school’s boys’ basketball team.

Although she left school three years later, Fisher said her time at Hirsch had an impact.

She said she had met students for whom “just (them) getting to school was a problem”, due to family issues, homelessness and gang activity. “It really opened my eyes,” she said.

During her tenure, she helped organize a fundraiser to help the basketball team get new jerseys, basic gear, and send players to summer skill-building camp. skills at Bradley University. “That’s how I was introduced to the neighborhood,” Fisher said.

After Hirsch, Fisher worked for the CPS Central Office and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. She then accepted a position as Senior PeopleSoft Security Administrator for the University of Chicago, a role she currently holds.

In 2009, she moved permanently to Grand Crossing, buying a house at Revere Way, an affordable housing project built by the Gary Comer Foundation.

Concerned about the “scourge of the neighborhood”, Fisher became involved in beautification efforts; she mowed lawns and cleaned up several vacant lots.

During this time, she redeveloped a vacant city-owned lot two houses away from hers, turning it into a vegetable and flower garden. Fisher named the lot “Greasy Gardens” because it is a popular site in the neighborhood for dumping trash.

The garden, which won a Chicago Excellence in Gardening Award every year from 2017 to 2019, is also used for community events, such as an annual harvest party and June 19 celebration. She eventually purchased the land in 2018 as part of the city’s Adjacent Neighbor Land Acquisition Program.

Fisher is also a master gardener, a trained horticultural expert who serves communities through volunteer service projects, and a master urban farmer through the University of Illinois Extension School.

When asked about her decision to run, Fisher thought her work and volunteer experience could help her “do more” for the neighborhood.

“I have the work experience, the community activism…I know the challenges of Chicago public schools, I know the challenges of living in a neighborhood where housing is insecure,” she said. “I think there’s an opportunity for people like me, who want to live in the neighborhood…to do more.”

Fisher identified the 5th Ward’s main problems as a lack of affordable housing, economic investment, and public safety.

On housing, she said, “I want to make sure it’s fair, it’s fair for people. I want to know what are the rental policies (of companies), what are the eviction policies.

On the topic of public safety, Fisher said she supports new local police district boards and holds law enforcement accountable for misconduct. She also regularly attends CAPS meetings.

As for economic investment, Fisher said she would like to see more businesses in the neighborhood. She also said she would use her computer skills to help voters learn systems like filing 311 requests.

Fisher is also a project manager for Habitat for Humanity, a member of the steering committee for the Nature, Culture, and Human Health Network, president of the Greenwood Block Club, and a judge for the Chicago Excellence in Gardening Awards.

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