CHICAGO – Chicago budget director Alexandra Holt -- who has been instrumental in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to trim the city’s structural deficit and stabilize its pension system -- will leave the post in early summer.
Holt, who has been Emanuel’s only budget director since he took office in 2011, plans to take some time off after handing the baton in late June or July to Samantha Fields, commissioner of the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Holt wants to pursue other endeavors and thought it was time for a new person with fresh ideas, said finance department spokeswoman Molly Poppe.
“Alex has been an invaluable and thoughtful partner in reducing the city’s budget deficit, eliminating the bad financial practices of the past, putting our pension funds on the path to solvency and creating a strong, sustainable future for the City of Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement Friday.
“I know that Samantha Fields will build on Alex’s record of results as Chicago continues on the path of fiscal reform,” he added. Fields will work with chief financial officer Carole Brown and comptroller Erin Keane.
Emanuel tapped Holt to serve in one of the city’s three key financial posts before taking office. Few budget directors over the last several decades have lasted in the high pressure post more than a few years.
Holt, a lawyer, previously worked at Baker & McKenzie after stints with the city beginning in 1992 as a deputy commissioner in the Chicago Department of Environment and as a managing deputy budget director. Holt said in a statement she was “truly humbled by the opportunity to serve” in her various city positions.
During her time as budget director managing what's now an $8.2 billion spending plan, Holt spearheaded efforts to improve budgeting transparency and management and contracting efficiencies to trim costs. The structural budget deficit has been reduced by 80% and Emanuel called her integral to the city’s pension fixes.
Holt’s departure will come after the Emanuel administration resolves a near-term funding crisis at the Chicago Public Schools. Emanuel pledged his help in closing the school district’s $129 million deficit left by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of pension funding aid but the city says the problem is now wider because the state is more than $400 million behind in grant payments.
Holt also leaves as the city is still waiting for the legislative approval of the city-designed overhaul of two of its pension funds to clear the General Assembly. The Senate has approved the changes and the House also recently approved the bill but Republicans pulled their support so it’s no longer veto-proof and Rauner has threatened one absent passage of state pension reforms.
Fields’ appointment needs city council approval. Emanuel also announced the reappointment of inspector general Joe Ferguson.