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How to Run for Alderman

2 min read
Chicago Politics Team · May 9, 2024

Americans are often taught that their form of government is one of the most original and unique in history. There is some truth to that assertion, but it leaves out the many models and traditions upon which the Founders drew in establishing not only the national government, but state and local authority as well. In fact, the local jurisdictions, which are closest to the people, often have roots in the governing styles of European hamlets and villages. Various cities throughout the United States, for example, are run by aldermen. 

In this guide, we’ll explore what an alderman does, which states elect aldermen, and how you can run for the office of alderman and make an impact on your community.

What Is an Alderman?

The specific responsibilities of an alderman can differ by jurisdiction. In the broadest sense, though, an alderman sits on a municipal council, which is responsible for making laws and passing ordinances for a city or municipality. In this manner, the role is akin to — or even identical to — the member of a city or town council

Better-known cities with alderman positions in the United States include St. Louis, Missouri, New Haven, Connecticut, and Chicago, Illinois. New York City once elected aldermen but later opted for the alternate titles of councilman and councilwoman. Meanwhile, use of the more inclusive term "alderperson" is growing throughout the country. For example, the city of West Allis, Wisconsin elects ten alderpersons to its Common Council.

Where Are Alderpersons Elected?

Only certain American states and cities elect aldermen or alderpersons. The following states elect alderpersons at the local level:

  • Connecticut

  • Illinois

  • Massachusetts

  • Missouri

  • New Hampshire

  • Rhode Island

  • Wisconsin

Louisiana, Maryland, and Mississippi also sometimes use the language of aldermen or alderpersons. In other states, there are similar locally elected positions that go by other names, such as city or town council members.

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Here are a few of the most notable cities that elect alderpersons:

Chicago, Illinois

Aldermen in Chicago are elected across 50 political divisions known as wards. A ward is a specific area within the city that receives political representation. The city council deals with matters of public finance; real estate acquisition and disposal; land use; and traffic management, among other matters. Requirements for aldermen on the council include convening at least once on a monthly basis. 

The main qualifications for Chicago aldermen are:

  • Continuous residence in the ward of representation for at least one year

  • Being current on all tax obligations and other public debt payments

  • Having no felony convictions on a criminal record

Chicago most recently held aldermanic elections in 2023. A list of the alderpersons representing Chicago’s 50 wards can be found here.

New Haven, Connecticut

The local law-making body for New Haven, Connecticut is known as the Board of Alders. Serving across 30 wards, New Haven’s alderpersons meet twice a month to amend the city charter and municipal code; debate and pass ordinances on public safety and public works; as well as make rules relative to zoning and education.

In New Haven, aldermen serve four-year terms in local government. In order to run for office, an aldermanic candidate must reside in the ward from which the candidate intends to run and have reached the age of majority.

St. Louis, Missouri

Elections for aldermen in St. Louis, Missouri occur throughout 13 wards. This political office involves the crafting, changing, and passage of local laws and approving a municipal budget. Regular meetings happen according to a weekly schedule. Among the aldermen responsibilities in local government are awarding city contracts; overseeing traffic control and safety; establishing and amending health and fire codes; and providing community leadership throughout the city. 

Those contemplating an alderman campaign in St. Louis must meet a few criteria:

  • Must be registered to vote at the time of filing

  • Must be at least 25 years old

  • Must hold U.S. citizenship for five years prior to election

  • Must reside in St. Louis for three years before election

  • Must live in the ward of representation for a minimum of one year

How to Become an Alderman

Want to run for alderman or alderperson? Follow these steps to launch a successful campaign:

  1. Meet the Correct Qualifications: Eligibility standards to run for alderman differ by locality. Common requirements to run for alderman include minimum age requirements, residency requirements, and a clean criminal record. 

  2. File for Office: Follow the appropriate steps to officially file for office. Be sure to check your local government’s website for specific requirements.

  3. Create a Campaign Strategy: Do your research and make a plan for how your campaign will connect with the voters in your community. Especially in competitive elections, getting access to the voter file can be a crucial step in this process. You may also want to set a campaign budget and, if necessary, make plans for fundraising.

  4. Connect with Voters: Voter outreach is perhaps the most essential part of running an effective campaign for local office. You can reach out to voters through a variety of strategies, from direct mail and email marketing to social media and in-person events.

  5. Get Out the Vote: Encourage as many supporters as possible to get to the polls and cast their ballots on election day. Remember that in local elections, even a small number of votes can make a big difference!

Free Support for Your Aldermanic Campaign offers free campaign tools and support for independent, non-partisan, and third-party candidates running for local office. Our free suite of tools includes voter insights, AI content generators, access to a growing community of independent candidates, and more. Low-cost resources including voter data and peer-to-peer (P2P) text messaging support are also available.

Want to learn more? Book a meeting with our team to learn more about our free and low-cost offerings for aldermanic candidates. Or start exploring’s resources for yourself today.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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How to Run for Office
By Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.