Former 24th Ward Ald. Michael Chandler died last Thursday in Arizona, and it took nearly a week for word to get back to Chicago.
That tells you plenty about the former West Side alderman, who if he wasn’t the quietest in City Council history, would certainly make the short list.
Chandler died of kidney failure in a hospital in Glendale, Arizona, where he had moved soon after retiring, said his brother Thomas Chandler. He was 64.
It was just over two years ago that I wrote a column about his decision to hang it up. It began this way:
“After voting Tuesday to raise Chicago’s minimum wage, Ald. Michael Chandler (24th) quietly put on his coat, walked across the street and withdrew his name as a candidate for re-election.
“Chandler, who just two weeks ago filed nominating petitions to seek a fifth term in office, always does things quietly, so quietly you can forget he’s there sometimes.”
As an alderman, it’s not necessarily a good thing for people to forget you’re there, and 13 challengers had lined up to oppose him.
But Chandler was matter-of-fact that day about his decision, shrugging off the competition and explaining without bitterness only that it was “time to call it a day.”
By then, he’d already made up his mind to join his brother in Arizona, lured by the warm weather.
Chandler also was frustrated by the difficulty of bringing city resources to the impoverished North Lawndale neighborhood, where he had grown up and still lived, his brother said.
Chandler and his wife, Lea, bought a house next to a golf course in July 2015. He told people he wanted to learn to play, but never did.
Instead, Lea Chandler said her husband enjoyed sitting in the backyard and watching the golfers, occasionally ducking an errant golf ball.
Chandler became ill within a year of moving to Glendale, his brother said.
Chandler didn’t miss the action in Chicago, but he did like to call his friends here to stay in touch, he said.
One of the people he called regularly was his successor, Ald. Michael Scott Jr., who had received Chandler’s endorsement for the post.
“He would call to see how things were going in the ward,” Scott said.
But Chandler never let on he was sick.
Scott’s mother had served for several years as Chandler’s ward superintendent, and as a college student, Scott had interviewed the alderman for a class paper on local politics.
At the end of that meeting, Chandler asked Scott what he wanted to do when he graduated. Scott told him he wanted to become an alderman. Chandler tried to dissuade him.
But Scott said Chandler was generous with his support and advice in retirement. His best guidance?
“Listen to the people,” Scott said. “He told me: ‘If you listen to the people, you can’t go wrong.’ ”
Chandler was not a dynamic leader, but I thought he served honorably, which at the time was a rarity for the 24th Ward, long represented by crooks and kooks. And he was always kind to me.
Chandler was first elected in 1995 and served three terms before being ousted in 2007 by Sharon Dixon, best known for a DUI arrest and another incident after she left office when she entered a police station with a loaded gun.
In 2011, 24th Ward voters returned Chandler to office.
He was a product of Democratic politics, working his way up as a precinct captain to become a city building inspector supervisor.
In addition to his wife and brother, Chandler is survived by a sister, Thana; two sons, Thomas and Michael Jr.; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned.
Aldermen gave a few short speeches in Chandler’s honor at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, then observed a moment of silence.
Chandler probably would have most appreciated the silence.