Alex Sims (Photo credit: Danny Photography)
Alex Sims has a strong handle on public affairs. The former executive with the Office of the City Treasurer in Chicago knows “Change can be created and impact can be made.” It’s why she founded her APS & Associates, a full range public affairs consulting firm.
The political strategist has spent the better part of her career “connecting grassroots with grass tops” to create a winning formula that successfully ensures that two-way dialogue and considerations are established between communities and elected officials.
She formed the local Every Vote Counts campaign, which, in 2014, registered the nation’s largest number of voters in four months. She also provided strategic counsel for City Treasurer Kurt Summers to visit Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.
But, while many would expect nothing less from this 2010 Northwestern graduate, CORO Fellowship recipient, and head of President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in St. Louis, most are amazed at how quickly she’s been able to apply her special knack for helping to give a voice to urban, underserved constituents while opening the ears and minds of key public servants across the city.
“I’ve had that opportunity to do that throughout my career and I really wanted to be able to pass on my knowledge to others and have a large impact in different ways,” says the consulting firm founder. “I may have a client who wants to truly make sure their voice is heard. I know how to do that. Or I may have a client who needs to know how to pass a bill. I know how to help them win a campaign.”
With growing unrest and certainty in our political system, Sims is offering “her greatest and best self to help the community.”
As the gubernatorial race begins to heat up in the state, Sims is the go-to source when it comes to understanding how to properly scrutinize key issues, candidate platforms and campaign promises, and how to make the best, informed decision in the voting booth.
How do you describe the city of Chicago as a brand?
I’d describe Chicago by its communities and its neighborhood. I had the privilege of visiting the 77 neighborhoods in 77 days and creating teams in every neighborhood with Treasurer [Kurt] Summers.
I feel everyone is proud to live here and [identifies] with his or her community. Our job now is to create inclusion and equality throughout the city so that everyone can work together to make Chicago the greatest city. Although there is so much pride in each neighborhood, not all neighborhoods are equal.
We have approached that time to make that change.
What is a good platform for Illinois’ next governor in terms of making inclusion and equality happen?
Our next governor needs to get on the ground. The next successful candidate in this race is going to be the person who knows who they are running for and knows their constituents. It’s the person who can go into the Black community and truly articulate the problem, tell them “I know there’s violence in your community. And, I know why there’s violence in your community. There is a lack of economic stability. I know there are no jobs here.
“I know if there’s a young person who is making a bad decision, it’s not because they want to make that bad decision.” We need to hear that from a candidate to get the Black vote.
We also need a candidate who has finance experience, experience managing money. Money is a big factor to balance the budget. We need someone who can get on the ground and tell constituents what the day-to-day problems are, but also understand the big picture. Our state has a deficit and we need to fix it.
When you say there are no jobs, are there truly no jobs or the residents don’t have the proper skills to match the opportunity?
It’s a mix of both. You can’t create jobs and have no workforce development or training for young people. And you also can’t put the money into mentorship and workforce development and once the young people [complete the training], there is not job our there for them. There is currently money going into mentorship and workforce development, but there are no jobs in these neighborhoods. Jobs are popping up downtown and more innovative jobs like opportunities with Uber and Lyft, but not a lot of middle class jobs being created at this time.
The Roeper Review recently came out with their latest journal and there are two articles of interest to the Roeper Community that you might want to read. First is the Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter from The Roeper Institute Board of Directors AND second, is the most recent alumni “Ask the Expert” feature–“Promoting Equal Opportunity and Preserving Democracy: An Interview With Public Affairs Consultant Alexandra Sims“. Alex, daughter of our own Denita Banks-Sims and husband Glen Sims, started Roeper as a 3-year-old in Stage I and graduated from Roeper in 2006.
Politics in Chicago is like nowhere else — they don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. So, when AARP Illinois wanted to engage with the Chicago City Council for the first time after a historic mayoral race, we knew whom to call: Alexandra Sims, the founder and leader of APS & Associates.
Alex is a power player in the Chicago and Illinois political scene. Driven by the belief that one’s birthplace and economic status should not disproportionately determine one’s life journey, Alex has dedicated her career, and the work of her firm, to voting rights and social justice. And her work has been recognized: She has been named a Chicago Urban League fellow and a Top 40 Gamechanger by Ariel Investments and WVON Radio, and has been recognized by Chicago magazine, the Chicago Tribune, VoyageChicago magazine, and Rollingout.com. In the white-male-dominated space of political strategy, Alex has built a team of women of color into one of the top political strategy firms in the state.
Alex worked with the AARP Illinois team to build an effective initial strategy for engaging the 50 members of the Chicago City Council, of whom over two-thirds were new to the council. From “City Council 101,” where the Illinois team learned the not-so-formal processes of the City Council, to critical introductions and working relationships with the various caucuses within the council, Alex’s support and guidance were critical to AARP’s success in our first year of Chicago advocacy: two successful advocacy campaigns — one on utilities, another on the passage of an accessory dwelling unit ordinance. As a result, AARP Illinois has now established itself as an important voice and policy expert on issues for older adults in Chicago.
And our work continues: Alex has helped AARP Illinois build critical relationships with the governor’s team, including supporting our statewide graduated income tax campaign, as well as with new leadership in the state House of Representatives. With the shifting political winds in Chicago and Illinois, it is important for AARP to have a partner like Alex by our side.
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Mary E. Anderson is a manager of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois.