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Mayor Emanuel Chooses CTA President Forrest Claypool As Next Chief Of Staff

By Margaret Paulson in News on Apr 24, 2015 7:00PM

Mayor Emanuel announced on Friday that current CTA President Forrest Claypool will be his next Chief of Staff. This marks Claypool’s third stint as mayoral Chief of Staff, after twice taking the role under Richard M. Daley.

The announcement came less than two weeks after Emanuel’s current Chief of Staff, Lisa Schrader, announced she was stepping down at the end of May to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

In a statement, Emanuel cited Claypool’s “unparalleled record of reform, accountability and leadership in city and county government” and lauded his work at the helm of the CTA, especially the Red Line South Reconstruction Project:

“That accomplishment shows a rare ability [in] which Forrest has to be laser-focused on the six inches ahead of him, while still having the strategic vision to look miles down the road. That vision and focus is what I need as we prepare to tackle the biggest fiscal crisis in Chicago history."

Emanuel currently has many crises to contend with, including pension reform, devastating budget cuts from Springfield and myriad problems at CPS, including a $1.1 billion budget shortfall and an investigation into CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s shady no-bid contract with a company that used to employ her. It’s all underscored by public dissatisfaction with Emanuel’s performance as mayor, as evidenced by this year’s historic run-off election with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Emanuel must see Claypool—his friend of 35 years and neighbor (they live just blocks from each other in Ravenswood)—as a steady and safe fit for the job. Claypool has a long history in Chicago politics and public service. He started working with David Axelrod in the mid-'80s, before becoming Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Chief of Staff in 1989. In 1993, Claypool took over as CEO and Superintendent of Chicago Park District and is widely seen as making many successful improvements there. In 1996, he returned as Daley’s Chief of Staff for a second time. Claypool was elected to County Board in 2002, but lost runs as County Board President in 2006 and County Assessor in 2010. In 2011, Mayor Emanuel appointed him as CTA President.

Claypool isn’t the only one to have connections to Richard M. Daley. It seems in Chicago’s well-oiled political machine, the same faces are recycled over and over, for better or worse.

Schrader worked in Budget and Finance at City Hall before working her way up to Deputy Chief of Staff for former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Emanuel chose her to replace Theresa Mintle, his first Chief of Staff, in March 2013. Mintle’s paternal grandmother was a cousin of Sis Daley, Richard J.’ Daley’s wife and Richard M.’s mother. Mintle served for two years before leaving to become CEO and President of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in August 2013.

It has yet to be determined who will take over for Claypool as head of the CTA.