Mayor of Chicago

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Mayor of Chicago
Chicago city seal.png
Seal of the City of Chicago
Lori Lightfoot and Ivanka Trump D5 p2fKXoAArRkZ (cropped).jpg
Lori Lightfoot

since May 20, 2019
Style Her Honor
The Honorable
Term length 4 years
Inaugural holder William Butler Ogden
SuccessionVice Mayor
Website Office of the Mayor

The Mayor of Chicago is the chief executive of city government in Chicago, Illinois, the third-largest city in the United States. The mayor is responsible for the administration and management of various city departments, submits proposals and recommendations to the Chicago City Council, is active in the enforcement of the city's ordinances, submits the city's annual budget and appoints city officers, department commissioners or directors, and members of city boards and commissions.


During sessions of the city council, the mayor serves as the presiding officer. The mayor is not allowed to vote on issues except in certain instances, most notably where the vote taken on a matter before the body results in a tie.

The office of mayor was created when Chicago became a city in 1837.

Appointment powers

The mayor appoints the commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department and superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. He or she also appoints the heads of other departments, [1] the largest of which are the Water Management Department (formed by the consolidation of the former Water Department and Sewer Department under Richard M. Daley), and the Streets & Sanitation Department. He or she also appoints members to the boards of several special-purpose governmental bodies including the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago Transit Authority, and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. Under Richard M. Daley, the Illinois legislature granted the mayor power to appoint the governing board and chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools and subordinated the district to the mayor; the district had long been an independent unit of government.

The Chicago City Clerk and City Treasurer of Chicago are elected separately, as are the 50 aldermen who form the city council. The mayor is empowered, however, to fill vacancies in any of these 52 elected offices by appointment. In turn, the city council elects one of its own to fill a mayoral vacancy.

Election and succession

The mayor of Chicago is elected by popular vote every four years, on the last Tuesday in February. A run-off election, in the event that no candidate garners more than fifty percent of the vote, is held on the first Tuesday in April. The election is held on a non-partisan basis. Chicago is the largest city in the United States not to limit the term of service for its mayor.

In accordance with Illinois law, [2] [3] the city council elects a vice mayor who serves as interim mayor in the event of a vacancy in the office of the mayor or the inability of the mayor to serve due to illness or injury, until the city council elects one of its members acting mayor or until the mayoral term expires. [3] As of May 2019, the current vice mayor is Tom Tunney. [4] However, if a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor with more than 28 months remaining in the mayoral term and at least 130 days before the next general municipal election, then a special election must be held to choose a new mayor to serve out the remainder of the term at that general municipal election; if a vacancy occurs with fewer than 28 months remaining in the mayoral term or fewer than 130 days before the next general municipal election, then the acting mayor serves as mayor until the mayoral term expires.

The order-of succession involving the vice mayor was made concrete following disputes that arose in the aftermath of the death in office of Richard J. Daley, and was subsequently implemented following the death in office of Harold Washington, which saw Vice Mayor David Orr become acting mayor. [5] Prior to this, the city had vague succession laws which indicated that the president pro tempore of the City Council would succeed as mayor. This was not followed after the death of Daley, and the city council appointed Michael Bilandic acting mayor instead of having pro tempore Wilson Frost become mayor, [6] due to City Corporation Counsel William R. Quinlan ruling that, since the city did not have a statute specifically outlining succession, the City Council would need to elect the interim mayor. [7]

Six instances have seen the City Council appoint either an acting mayor, acting mayor pro tempore, or interim mayor.

In the absence of the mayor during meetings of the city council, the president pro tempore of the city council, who is a member of and elected by the city council, acts as presiding officer. Unlike the mayor, the president pro tempore can vote on all legislative matters. If neither the mayor nor pro tempore can preside, the vice mayor presides. [8]


The first mayor was William Butler Ogden. 45 men and two women (Jane Byrne, 19791983, Lori Lightfoot, 2019), have held the office. Two sets of father and son have been elected Mayor of Chicago: Carter Harrison, Sr. (1893) and Carter Harrison, Jr. (18971905, 19111915), as well as Richard J. Daley (19551976) and Richard M. Daley (19892011). Carter Harrison, Jr. was the first mayor to have been born in the city. As an interim mayor, David Duvall Orr had the shortest mayoral term. Richard M. Daley was elected six times becoming Chicago's longest-serving mayor, surpassing his father's record. [9] The first Irish Catholic mayor was John Patrick Hopkins (18931895), and Rahm Emanuel (20112019) is the only Jewish American to have served as mayor. Harold Washington (19831987) was the first African American mayor. Current Mayor Lightfoot (sworn in May 2019) is the city's first African American woman and first openly LGBTQ mayor.

By charter, Chicago has a "weak-mayor" system, in which most of the power is vested in the city council. In practice, however, the mayor of Chicago has long been one of the most powerful municipal chief executives in the nation. Unlike mayors in most other weak-mayor systems, he or she has the power to draw up the budget. For most of the 20th century, before the decline of patronage and the mayor's office becoming officially nonpartisan in 1999, the mayor was the de facto leader of the city's Democratic Party, and had great influence over the ward organizations. [10]

List of mayors

The mayoral term in Chicago was one year from 1837 through 1863, when it was changed to two years. In 1907, it was changed again, this time to four years. Until 1861, municipal elections were held in March. In that year, legislation moved them to April. In 1869, however, election day was changed to November, and terms expiring in April of that year were changed. In 1875, election day was moved back to April by the city's vote to operate under the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.

William B. Ogden was the first mayor of Chicago. William B Ogden by GPA Healy, 1855.jpg
William B. Ogden was the first mayor of Chicago.
Joseph Medill, 26th mayor of Chicago, was the first foreign-born mayor. Joseph Medill.jpg
Joseph Medill, 26th mayor of Chicago, was the first foreign-born mayor.
Jane Byrne, 50th mayor of Chicago, was the first woman mayor. JaneByrne1985 (a).jpg
Jane Byrne, 50th mayor of Chicago, was the first woman mayor.
Harold Washington, 51st mayor of Chicago, was the first African American mayor. Washington h.jpg
Harold Washington, 51st mayor of Chicago, was the first African American mayor.
Richard M. Daley, 54th mayor of Chicago, was the longest-serving mayor (22 years). Richard M. Daley (4655925743 aacdba6297 n) (cropped).jpg
Richard M. Daley, 54th mayor of Chicago, was the longest-serving mayor (22 years).
Lori Lightfoot, 56th and current Mayor of Chicago, is the first African American woman, and first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago. Lori Lightfoot at MacLean Center (10a).png
Lori Lightfoot, 56th and current Mayor of Chicago, is the first African American woman, and first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago.

Town Presidents

Between 1833 and 1837, Chicago was incorporated as a town. Two individuals served as Town President during that period.

No.Town PresidentTerm in officePartyNotes
1 Thomas Jefferson Vance Owen August 12, 1833

2 John H Kinzie c1850s.png   John H. Kinzie 1834

March 4, 1837


Chicago has been incorporated as a city since 1837. Here is a list of mayors since that time.

#Consecutive terms [11] #Mayor (prior non-consecutive terms in parens)MayorTerm startTerm endTermsYears Party
11 William B. Ogden 1837183811 Democratic
22 Buckner S. Morris 1838183911 Whig
33 Benjamin W. Raymond 1839184011 Whig
44 Alexander Loyd 1840184111 Democratic
55 Francis C. Sherman 1841184211 Democratic
6(3) Benjamin W. Raymond 1842184311 Whig
76 Augustus Garrett 1843184411 Democratic
87 Alson Sherman 1844184511None
9(6) Augustus Garrett 1845184611 Democratic
108 John P. Chapin 1846184711 Whig
119 James Curtiss 1847184811 Democratic
1210 James H. Woodworth 1848185022None
13(9) James Curtiss 1850185111 Democratic
1411 Walter S. Gurnee 1851185322 Democratic
1512 Charles McNeill Gray 1853185411 Democratic
1613 Isaac L. Milliken 1854185511 Democratic
1714 Levi Boone 1855185611 American
1815 Thomas Dyer 1856185711 Democratic
1916 John Wentworth 1857185811 Republican
2017 John C. Haines 1858186022 Democratic
21(16) John Wentworth 1860186111 Republican
2218 Julian S. Rumsey 1861186211 Republican
23(5) Francis C. Sherman 1862186522 Democratic
2419 John B. Rice 1865186924 Republican
2520 Roswell B. Mason 1869187112Citizens
2621 Joseph Medill 1871187312 Republican (Dry)
Lester L. Bond
187318731412 Republican
2722 Harvey Doolittle Colvin 1873187512 Republican (Wet)
2823 Monroe Heath 1876187924 Republican
2924 Carter Harrison Sr. 1879188748 Democratic
3025 John A. Roche 1887188912 Republican
3126 DeWitt C. Cregier 1889189112 Democratic
3227 Hempstead Washburne 1891189312 Republican
33(24) Carter Harrison Sr.189318931412 Democratic
3428 George Bell Swift
(interim mayor)
1893189311216 Republican
3529 John P. Hopkins 18931895233 Democratic
36(28) George Bell Swift 1895189712 Republican
3730 Carter Harrison Jr. 1897190548 Democratic
3831 Edward F. Dunne 1905190712 Democratic
3932 Fred A. Busse 1907191114 Republican
40(30) Carter Harrison Jr. 1911191514 Democratic
4133 William H. Thompson 1915192328 Republican
4234 William E. Dever 1923192714 Democratic
43(33) William H. Thompson 1927193114 Republican
4435 Anton Cermak19311933122 Democratic
4536 Frank J. Corr
(acting mayor)
19331933 Democratic
4637 Edward J. Kelly 193319473 1214 Democratic
4738 Martin H. Kennelly 1947195528 Democratic
4839 Richard J. Daley195519765 3821 Democratic
4940 Michael A. Bilandic 19761979582 13 Democratic
5041 Jane Byrne 1979198314 Democratic
5142 Harold Washington198319871 184 712 Democratic
5243 David Orr
(acting mayor) [12]
19871987 Democratic
5344 Eugene Sawyer 1987198917481 12 Democratic
5445 Richard M. Daley 198920115 1222 Democratic 1
5546 Rahm Emanuel 2011201928 Democratic 1
5647 Lori Lightfoot 2019 Democratic 1

Deceased/murdered in office.
1 Since 1999, mayoral elections have officially been nonpartisan. A 1995 Illinois law stipulated that "candidates for mayor . . . no longer would run under party labels in Chicago." However, Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and Lori Lightfoot are known to be Democrats. [13]

Living mayors

As of 2018, four mayors of Chicago are still living, the oldest of whom is Richard M. Daley. [14] The most recent former mayor to die was Jane Byrne (19791983), on November 14, 2014. The most recently serving mayor to have died, however, was Eugene Sawyer (19871989), on January 19, 2008. [15]

NameMayoral termDate of birth
David Orr November 1987 – December 1987October 4, 1944 (age 75)
Richard M. Daley 1989–2011April 24, 1942 (age 78)
Rahm Emanuel 2011–2019November 29, 1959 (age 60)
Lori Lightfoot 2019presentAugust 4, 1962 (age 57)

Vice mayor

Vice mayor of Chicago
Chicago city seal.png
Seal of the City of Chicago
Tom Tunney (143407).jpg
Tom Tunney

since May 20, 2019
Inaugural holder Casimir Laskowski
Salarynone [16]

In accordance with Illinois law, the city council elects a vice mayor who serves as interim mayor in the event of a vacancy in the office of the mayor or the inability of the mayor to serve due to illness or injury, until the city council elects one of its members acting mayor or until the mayoral term expires. The current vice mayor is Tom Tunney. [4]

The position was created by state law after the power struggle that took place following Richard J. Daley's death in office. [6] [16] [17]

The position is considered to be largely ceremonial. [18] [19] [20]

If neither the mayor nor president pro tempore can preside over a City Council meeting, then the vice mayor presides. [8]

List of vice mayors

Vice-MayorTenureMayor(s) serve underNotesCitations
Casimir Laskowski 1976—1979 Michael Bilandic Inaugural holder of office [21] [22]
Richard Mell 1979—1987 Jane Byrne
Harold Washington
David Orr 1987—1988 Harold Washington
Eugene Sawyer
Served as "Acting Mayor" for 1 week [5] [24] [25]
Terry Gabinski 1988—1998 Eugene Sawyer
Richard M. Daley
[24] [26]
Bernard Stone 1998—2011 Richard M. Daley [25] [27] [28]
Ray Suarez 2011–2015 Rahm Emanuel [18] [19]
Brendan Reilly 2015—2019 Rahm Emanuel [29] [30]
Tom Tunney 2019—present Lori Lightfoot [4]

See also

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