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Gery Chico

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Gery Chico
Gery Chico at DuSable debate.jpg
Chico at a mayoral debate held in the DuSable Museum of African American History
Born (1956-08-24) August 24, 1956 (age 60)
Chicago, Illinois
Education BA, University of Illinois at Chicago (1978)
JD, Loyola University Chicago School of Law (1985)
Occupation Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education
Political party Democratic

Gery J. Chico (/ˈɡɛri ˈk/ GERR-ee CHEE-koh; born August 24, 1956) is a Chicago lawyer, public official, former Democratic primary candidate for United States Senate, and former candidate for Mayor of Chicago. Chico served as the Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley from 1992 to 1995, and board president of the Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001. He was named Outstanding School Board President by the Illinois State Board of Education in 1997. From 2007 to 2010, he was board president of the Chicago Park District, and in 2010 he was board president of the City Colleges of Chicago. On June 7, 2011, Chico was named Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

Early life and education[edit]

Gery Chico was born on August 24, 1956,[1] to a Mexican-American father, Jesse, and a Greek-Lithuanian mother, Jacqueline (née Kopulos). With his two younger brothers, he grew up in Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood.[2] His mother also worked as a secretary at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.[3] Chico attended a now-closed parochial school, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Elementary School at 35th and Hermitage,[4] where he headed the altar boys and patrol boys, and also played baseball for two years. A hip injury kept him in a wheelchair during his freshman year at Thomas Kelly High School.[2]

Chico pursued a pre-medical degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, but after his sophomore year he transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago.[5] A political science major, he volunteered in the 11th Ward. He later secured an externship in the city's Department of Planning during his senior year,[2] and he worked there from 1977 to 1980. He received his bachelor's degree in 1978. From 1980 to 1987, he worked for the City Council Finance Committee.[6] Finance Committee chair Alderman Edward M. Burke promoted Chico to research manager, and he became senior research assistant for the Department of Planning and Economic Development.[7] At that time, he took night classes at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.[2] He earned his law degree in 1985 and became a member of the Loyola Law Review.[6]

Chico has been married twice; his first wife was Jeryl Minow, with whom he had three daughters. He is currently married to Sunny Penedo Chico, who has a son and daughter from a previous marriage.[2][3] A former U.S. Department of Education employee, Sunny runs a consulting firm that focuses on, among others, tutoring services and curriculum advice.[8]

Legal career[edit]

Sidley & Austin[edit]

Chico began working as an associate of the Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin in 1987, and served as General Counsel to the Chicago Development Council, a real estate development association.[6] He left the firm in 1991 to become the Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley,[2] but he later returned as partner in 1995 and 1996, leading the firm's practice related to state and local government.

Altheimer & Gray[edit]

In 1996 Chico left Sidley & Austin to become a senior partner of Altheimer & Gray.[6] Oscar D’Angelo, a friend of Richard M. Daley and a former Altheimer partner, suggested to the firm’s managing partner that the firm hire Chico. In 2000, just four years later, at age 44, Chico became chairman of Altheimer. In 2002, the firm gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Governor Rod Blagojevich and Attorney General Lisa Madigan's campaigns. In 2003, while Chico was chairman and simultaneously running for the US Senate, Altheimer became insolvent and dissolved.[9][10] Some partners blamed the bankruptcy on poor management by Chico, while an attorney who sat on two financial committees blamed an economic downturn.[2]

Chico also served as Special Counsel to Arnstein & Lehr in 2003 and 2004.[6]

Chico & Nunes[edit]

In 2004, Chico, along with Planning Department colleague Marcus Nunes, formed the general practice law firm Chico & Nunes,[2] which lobbies for clients seeking government business.[8][11]

Chief of Staff to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley[edit]

In 1991 Chico was a Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley.[6] He coordinated efforts to drain freight tunnels that were flooded with water from the Chicago River.[12] Chico was later promoted to Chief of Staff, a position he held from 1992 to 1995.[6] As part of his duties, he oversaw the completion of the International Terminal of O'Hare International Airport, preparations for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and the construction of new schools.[13] Along with Budget Director Paul Vallas, Chico helped add 1,000 officers to the police force and improved neighborhoods throughout the city through a program called Neighborhoods Alive.[2]

Chicago Public Schools board[edit]

In 1995, the Illinois state legislature passed the Chicago School Reform Act, which gave the Mayor of Chicago unprecedented new control over Chicago Public Schools.[citation needed] Daley asked Chico to become the CEO, but Chico declined because he was resuming his law career. Chico instead recommended that Daley appoint colleague Paul Vallas as CEO, and Chico was named chairman of the School Reform Board of Trustees.[14] In 1997 Chico was named Outstanding School Board President by the Illinois State Board of Education for his reforms in education and fiscal policies.[citation needed]

Chico was responsible for efforts to preserve and restore hundreds of murals in the public schools, which had been commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Progressive and New Deal eras. They had since been hidden under layers of dirt and paint.[15] Under his administration, CPS appointed an Arts Education Task Force and a Bureau of Cultural Arts.[16]

2004 campaign for U.S. Senate[edit]

In 2004, Chico ran for the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald. He was the first Democrat to declare his candidacy, doing so on July 30, 2002, during a rally with Hispanic leaders. His Senate committee preferences included education, transportation, and foreign relations. He also criticized the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, but supported gay marriage,[3] abortion rights, stem cell research, the death penalty,[17] and universal healthcare.[18] Chico was the only candidate who supported gay marriage out of all seven Democrats and eight Republicans.[19] Then-State Senator Barack Obama ultimately won the nomination over six other candidates including Chico.[20]

Chicago Park District board[edit]

In October 2007, Mayor Daley appointed Chico as president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners.[21] Chico supported the construction of a new soccer field in Lincoln Park despite opposition from local residents.[22] In 2010, he stepped down.[23]

City Colleges of Chicago board[edit]

In March 2010, Mayor Daley nominated Chico as chairman of the board of trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago and the board elected Chico chairman.[24][25] Along with Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, Chico reformed the City Colleges budget by laying off 225 employees, removing unfilled jobs, and reducing executive spending to increase spending on technology and training for students. Furthermore, Chico and Hyman reduced taxation on property for two straight years, and cancelled nursing programs. He resigned 8 months later to run for Mayor of Chicago.[26]

2011 campaign for Mayor of Chicago[edit]

A pre-election rally at Roberto Clemente High School.

On September 27, 2010, Chico announced that he would run for mayor of Chicago in 2011.[27] He was one of six candidates on the ballot. Chico raised $4.4 million in campaign funds.[citation needed]

Chico pledged to hire 2,000 police officers but did not offer specifics on how he would raise the funds.[28] He opposed making the school board an elected body, and he favored extending the school day and school year.[29] Chico picked up endorsements from unions that represented, among others, police officers, firefighters, laborers, painters, operating engineers, iron workers, roofers, and sheet metal workers.[30]

Rahm Emanuel was considered to be the leading candidate before the election. Chico was considered "the rival with the best chance of forcing him into a runoff".[31] During the election on February 22, Emanuel's 55% support dwarfed Chico's 24% support.[32] Chico won in 10 of Chicago's 50 wards, while Emanuel won 40.[33] The campaign's communications director claimed that controversy over Emanuel's eligibility to run for mayor may have diverted the focus of the press away from the other candidates.[34] After the election, Chico remained involved in the runoff elections for other city offices, endorsing a candidate for 25th Ward alderman.[35]

State Board of Education[edit]

Chico was named chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education in June, 2011.[36] His confirmation was delayed as a result of questions regarding his ties to the Save-A-Life Foundation, a failed charity that was undergoing investigation by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.[37][38][39]


  1. ^ "About Gery...". Gery Chico for Mayor. 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rossi, Rosalind (February 3, 2011). "Chico known as hard worker, solid negotiator". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Mendell, David (March 7, 2004). "Proud of `battle scars,' Chico still in the fight". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ Felsenthal, Carol (October 1, 2010). "A Chat with Mayoral Candidate Gery Chico". Chicago Magazine. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ Jackson, Brian (October 24, 1993). "Making the City That Works Work; Daley Aide a Stickler for Detail". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 1. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Gery J. Chico". Chico & Nunes. 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ Crimmins, Jerry (April 15, 1992). "Daley aide Chico moves up after flood ouster". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 18. 
  8. ^ a b Heinzmann, David (December 21, 2010). "Gery Chico made millions from law firm that lobbies City Hall". Chicago Breaking News. Retrieved February 5, 2011. 
  9. ^ Pallasch, Abdon (2003-10-03). "Gery Chico and the firm that failed". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  10. ^ Robinson, Kevin (2011-01-11). "The Sun-Times Digs Up Gery Chico's Past". Chicagoist.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  11. ^ Chase, John (2011-01-09). "Gutierrez endorses Chico in Chicago mayoral race". Chicago Tribune. 
  12. ^ Oclander, Jorge (July 2, 1995). "Board President Chico's Duties Just Beginning". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 11. 
  13. ^ Oclander, Jorge (June 1, 1995). "City School Chief On the Way Out; Daley Staff Chief To Head Board". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 1. 
  14. ^ Neal, Steve (May 7, 1999). "Chico needs a lesson on sharing spotlight". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 7. 
  15. ^ Becker, Heather (2002). Art for the People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive- and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904–1943. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. pp. 1, 20. ISBN 0-8118-3579-0. 
  16. ^ Becker 2002, p. 110.
  17. ^ Kapos, Shia (March 10, 2004). "Some help with narrowing the choices". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. 
  18. ^ Beckless, Ferman Mentrell (March 6, 2004). "Chico: Healthcare should be a fundamental right". Chicago Defender. XCVIII (214). p. 9. 
  19. ^ Krol, Eric (February 15, 2004). "Only one candidate backs gay marriage". Daily Herald. p. 1. 
  20. ^ Finke, Doug (March 17, 2004). "Two emerge from pack of Senate candidates". State Journal Register. Springfield, Illinois. p. 1. 
  21. ^ Dumke, Mick (September 28, 2007). "Gery Chico, can-do guy". Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  22. ^ Ahmed-Ullah, Noreen S. (May 15, 2008). "Chicago Park District votes to settle Lincoln Park soccer field fight". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  23. ^ Uribarri, Adrian G. (April 8, 2010). "Daley recommends new Chicago Park District president". Chicago Current. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Mayor Taps Chico to Take Reins at City Colleges". Fox Chicago News. March 3, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Daley taps Chico to take reins at City Colleges" (Press release). Chicago Press Release Services. 2010-03-10. Retrieved 2012-04-03.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  26. ^ Spielman, Fran (November 4, 2010). "City Colleges Chairman Gery Chico resigns to concentrate on his mayoral campaign". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 7, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Gery Chico To Run For Mayor". Progress Illinois. September 27, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Chico says he'll hire more police officers". Chicago Tribune. January 27, 2011. p. 10. 
  29. ^ "Hispanic candidates disagree on public education in Chicago". Fox News Latino. February 9, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2011. 
  30. ^ Spielman, Fran; Pallasch, Abdon M. (February 8, 2011). "More unions endorse Chico, bash Emanuel". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 9, 2011. 
  31. ^ Chase, John (February 10, 2011). "Emanuel at 49%, Chico at 19% in Tribune/WGN poll". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  32. ^ Pallasch, Abdon M.; Spielman, Fran (February 23, 2011). "Rahm Emanuel wins Chicago mayor race". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  33. ^ Schulte, Sarah. "Is Chicago past racial elections?". ABC 7 Chicago. Retrieved February 23, 2011. 
  34. ^ McClelland, Edward (March 25, 2011). "Running Against Rahm". NBC Chicago. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  35. ^ "Chico, del Valle at odds over Ward 25". ABC 7 Chicago. March 24, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  36. ^ Malone, Tara (June 8, 2011). "Quinn picks Chico to lead state education board". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  37. ^ McKinney, Dave (June 23, 2011). "Chico's confirmation as state school boss hits snag". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  38. ^ Guzzardi, Will (2011-02-17). "Gery Chico Save A Life Foundation Connection: What Was His Role At Troubled Charity?". The Huffington Post. 
  39. ^ Guzzardi, Will (2011-06-23). "Gery Chico Save A Life Foundation Connection Delays His Appointment To State Board Of Ed". The Huffington Post. 

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