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Massillon Native Lori Lightfoot on Being Mayor of Chicago, Super Tuesday and Todd Rundgren

photo of Lori Lightfoot
KABIR BHATIA
/
WKSU
Lori Lightfoot arrives at the Akron-Canton Airport Saturday. She grew up in Massillon and has served as mayor of Chicago since last May. She was in Stark County over the weekend to speak at the Urban League's Black and White Ball.

Lori Lightfoot is the mayor of the third largest city in the country, but she grew up in Massillon and often speaks about its influence on her. Lightfoot returned to Stark County over the weekend to speak at the Urban League’s Black and White Ball. She touched on an array of subjects from her hometown to Super Tuesday and even who she's rooting for to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  

Lightfoot, 57, grew up in Massillon where her mother still lives. She was sworn in as mayor of Chicago on May 20, 2019. Serving the nation's third largest city is a far cry from her small-city roots, but Lightfoot says her parents prepared her to be a high achiever.

"Particularly my mother really gave me a sense of confidence about what I could accomplish in life if I worked hard, and really took advantage of the opportunities that were in front of me," she said. 

She recalls her  youth in Massillon fondly.

"I had a very strong sense of community growing up here." She carries the values instilled in her into her work as mayor. "I know one of the things that's most important is when you're a role model, when you're a leader, to really lead with integrity, and to be careful in the way that you speak," she said. "Particularly because I know in my role, a lot of young children and young adults are watching. And I want to make sure that I stand for something that they can believe in, and that they can model in their own lives."

'I know in my role, a lot of young children and young adults are watching. And I want to make sure that I stand for something that they can believe in, and that they can model in their own lives.'

Her run for mayor was Lightfoot's first venture into politics. She says she's watching closely the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"I think there may be some folks who say goodbye after Super Tuesday (March 3) because it's, if you haven't made traction, you're not generating a collection of delegates," she says.
 
"I'm looking for somebody who's really going to speak to the heartland and by that I mean, the Democratic Party was really built on the values of working class folks; hard work, sacrifice, but having economic security and access to good quality health care, and good jobs that you can build a future on and that you can pass on some wealth and savings to your children and their next generation." 
Lightfoot says none of the candidates has yet focused on those core values.
"It's not enough to not be Trump. You've got to give people a vision of where you want to take the country and the ability to really bring people together."
 
Lightfoot has been unimpressed with the administration's response to the coronavirus threat.
 
"Well, it's been lacking, to be very candid." She says cities have not been receiving strong direction from public health experts. "It's unfortunate the way in which, even this week, that the messaging has been handled by federal officials. I think it sent people into a level of panic that's unnecessary."
 
Something many people may not know about Lightfoot is that she is a devoted fan of the musician Todd Rundgren. Rundgren has twice been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but has so far not been tapped for induction, something Lightfoot hopes to see in the future.
"I think that he is really quite a genius, particularly if you look at some of his early work in the early to mid '70s," she said. "I think he should be a very strong candidate for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Of course I'm biased, because I've really been following him since the early to mid '70s, and I'm a great, great fan of his music."
 
 

lori_lightfoot_in_marching_band.mp3
Lightfoot on the Washington High School marching band, and Chicago's Year of Music