CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tapped Forrest Claypool, his longtime friend and hand-picked head of the Chicago Transit Authority, as his next chief of staff.
Claypool will replace Lisa Schrader who recently announced she was resigning from the demanding position to explore opportunities in the private sector after two years in the political hot seat. Her resignation ends a 14-year career at city hall that began in the city's finance department.
Emanuel put Claypool in charge of the CTA after his election four years ago. Claypool is a former Cook County board commissioner and Chicago parks superintendent. He also served two stints as chief of staff to former Mayor Richard Daley.
"I've known Forrest Claypool for 35 years. He has an unparalleled record of reform, accountability, and leadership in city and county government," Emanuel said in a statement April 24. "That's why one of the first calls I made during my transition in 2011 was to Forrest to ask him to lead the CTA."
Emanuel cited the rapid completion of the Red Line South Reconstruction Project as an example of Claypool's strong management. "That vision and focus is what I need as we prepare to tackle the biggest fiscal crisis in Chicago history," Emanuel added.
The city's battered credit rating is threatened by a looming $550 million spike in its public safety pension contributions, $19 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, and Chicago Public Schools' deep fiscal struggles.
Claypool will take over the post next month. Emanuel said he would name a new CTA president in the coming weeks.
During Claypool's tenure at the CTA, the agency won praise for fiscal strides from the Chicago Civic Federation. "We've seen a significant fiscal turn-around for the CTA in its past three budget cycles," said federation President Laurence Msall in a report on the agency's budget.
The next CTA president faces challenges posed by Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to cut transit aid to help balance the state's fiscal 2016 budget.