Four years ago this April, Ameya Pawar had just embarked on a 16-month journey as an intern for then-Riverside village Manager Kathleen Rush. Now you can call him Alderman Pawar.

On Feb. 22, the independent Democrat became alderman of
Chicago‘s 47th Ward, winning just under 51 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff against a candidate who was endorsed by the ward’s longtime boss Gene Schulter.

Pawar won his first race for elected office in large part by outhustling his main opponent, Tom O’Donnell, knocking on hundreds of doors in the ward and utilizing social media to spread his message.

“My mission is to transform government and renew public service with an issues-based approach to engage every Chicagoan – one person, one block and one ward at a time,” says Pawar’s mission statement on his campaign website. “To do this, I believe we need to raise the level of public discourse – we must move away from the idea that political concerns are more important than public well-being.”

His enthusiasm and platform won the support of both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, who endorsed him without reservation.

Pawar graduated from
Missouri Valley College with degrees in philosophy and religion. He then attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he earned a master’s degree in public administration.

It was during that time he signed on as a paid intern in
Riverside. Among the projects he worked on were an effort to upgrade the village’s website and writing an application that resulted in Riverside being named a Preserve America community by the federal government.

Kevin Wachtel,
Riverside‘s finance director, worked with Pawar during his time as an intern for Rush.

“He’s into it to make a difference, not the political side of it,” said Wachtel. “That was his ethic while he was here, to make a positive change. He’s always had these aspirations to be a positive change-maker.”

Wachtel said he’s kept in touch with Pawar since he left the village and had been following the aldermanic race.

“It’s kind of cool to see someone you know to go on and do really cool things,” Wachtel said.