Mayor of Chicago

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For the most recent election, see Chicago mayoral election, 2015.
Mayor of Chicago
Seal of Chicago, Illinois.png
Seal of City of Chicago
Rahm Emanuel, official photo portrait color.jpg
Rahm Emanuel

since May 16, 2011
Style The Honorable
Term length 4 years, no term limits
Inaugural holder William Butler Ogden
Formation 1837
Succession Vice-Mayor of Chicago
Salary $216,210 (2014)
Website Office of the Mayor

The Mayor of Chicago is the chief executive of 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 meetings of the City Council, the Mayor serves as the presiding officer of the City Council. The Mayor submits proposals and recommendations to the City Council of his own accord and on behalf of city departments. Although the presiding officer of the City Council, the Mayor is not allowed to vote on issues except in certain instances, for example, where the vote taken on a matter before the body results in a tie.

Appointment powers[edit]

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 city departments, 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 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[edit]

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, the City Council elects a Vice-Mayor (currently Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), since May 2015) 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. 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 less than 28 months remaining in the mayoral term or less than 130 days before the next general municipal election, then the acting Mayor serves as Mayor until the mayoral term expires.

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.


The first mayor was William Butler Ogden. Two sets of father and son have been elected Mayor of Chicago: Carter Harrison, Sr. and Carter Harrison, Jr. as well as Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley. Carter Harrison, Jr. was the first mayor to have been born within city limits. The first and only woman to hold the office was Jane Byrne. The first black mayor was Harold Washington. As an interim mayor, David Duvall Orr had the shortest mayoral term. Richard M. Daley was originally elected in 1989 and re-elected for the sixth time in 2007. In September 2010, Daley announced that he would not seek reelection for a seventh term as mayor. On December 26, 2010, Daley became Chicago's longest-serving mayor, surpassing his father's record.[1] Rahm Emanuel is the current mayor, having won the 2011 election with 55% of the vote to 25% for his closest opponent, Gery Chico. Emanuel was sworn in on May 16, 2011. In an April 7, 2015 run-off election Emanuel won re-election with 55.7 percent to challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's 44.3 percent.[2]

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 has the power to draw up the budget. Before the mayor's office became officially nonpartisan, he was the de facto leader of the city's Democratic Party, and had great influence over the ward organizations.[3]

List of mayors[edit]

The mayoral term in Chicago was one year from 1837 through 1863, when it was increased to two years. In 1907, it was lengthened to four years, the present duration. 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 lengthened. 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.
Joseph Medill, 21th Mayor of Chicago, was the first foreign-born mayor.
Harold Washington, 41th Mayor of Chicago, was the first African-American mayor.
Richard M. Daley, 43rd Mayor of Chicago, was the longest serving mayor (ca. 22 years).
Rahm Emanuel, 44th Mayor of Chicago, is the current and first Jewish mayor.
# Mayor Term start Term end Terms   Party
1 William B. Ogden 1837 1838 1 Democratic
2 Buckner S. Morris 1838 1839 1 Whig
3 Benjamin W. Raymond 1839 1840 1 Whig
4 Alexander Loyd 1840 1841 1 Democratic
5 Francis C. Sherman 1841 1842 1 Democratic
(3) Benjamin W. Raymond 1842 1843 1 Whig
6 Augustus Garrett 1843 1844 1 Democratic
7 Alson Sherman 1844 1845 1 None
(6) Augustus Garrett 1845 1846 1 Democratic
8 John P. Chapin 1846 1847 1 Whig
9 James Curtiss 1847 1848 1 Democratic
10 James H. Woodworth 1848 1850 2 None
(9) James Curtiss 1850 1851 1 Democratic
11 Walter S. Gurnee 1851 1853 2 Democratic
12 Charles McNeill Gray 1853 1854 1 Democratic
13 Isaac L. Milliken 1854 1855 1 Democratic
14 Levi Boone 1855 1856 1 American
15 Thomas Dyer 1856 1857 1 Democratic
16 John Wentworth 1857 1858 1 Republican
17 John C. Haines 1858 1860 2 Democratic
(16) John Wentworth 1860 1861 1 Republican
18 Julian S. Rumsey 1861 1862 1 Republican
(5) Francis C. Sherman 1862 1865 1 Democratic
19 John B. Rice 1865 1869 1 Republican
20 Roswell B. Mason 1869 1871 12 Citizens
21 Joseph Medill 1871 1873 12 Republican (Dry)
22 Harvey Doolittle Colvin 1873 1875 12 Republican (Wet)
23 Monroe Heath 1876 1879 1 Republican
24 Carter Harrison Sr. 1879 1887 2 Democratic
25 John A. Roche 1887 1889 12 Republican
26 DeWitt C. Cregier 1889 1891 12 Democratic
27 Hempstead Washburne 1891 1893 12 Republican
(24) Carter Harrison Sr. 1893 1893 Partial Democratic
28 John P. Hopkins 1893 1895 12 Democratic
29 George Bell Swift 1895 1897 12 Republican
30 Carter Harrison Jr. 1897 1905 2 Democratic
31 Edward F. Dunne 1905 1907 12 Democratic
32 Fred A. Busse 1907 1911 1 Republican
(30) Carter Harrison Jr. 1911 1915 1 Democratic
33 William H. Thompson 1915 1923 2 Republican
34 William E. Dever 1923 1927 1 Democratic
(33) William H. Thompson 1927 1931 1 Republican
35 Anton Cermak 1931 1933 Partial Democratic
36 Edward J. Kelly 1933 1947 3 12 Democratic
37 Martin H. Kennelly 1947 1955 2 Democratic
38 Richard J. Daley 1955 1976 5 12 Democratic
39 Michael A. Bilandic 1976 1979 1 Democratic
40 Jane Byrne 1979 1983 1 Democratic
41 Harold Washington 1983 1987 1 Democratic
42 Eugene Sawyer 1987 1989 Partial Democratic
43 Richard M. Daley 1 1989 2011 5 12 Democratic
44 Rahm Emanuel 2011 Incumbent 1 12 Democratic

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, both Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel are known to be Democrats.[4]

Living former mayors[edit]

As of 2015, two former mayors of Chicago were still living, the older of whom was Richard M. Daley.[5] The most recent former mayor to die was Jane Byrne (1979–1983), on November 14, 2014. The most recently serving mayor to have died, however, was Eugene Sawyer (1987–1989), on January 19, 2008.[6]

Name Mayoral term Date of birth
David Orr November 1987 – December 1987 (1944-10-04) October 4, 1944 (age 72)
Richard M. Daley 1989–2011 (1942-04-24) April 24, 1942 (age 74)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daley now Chicago mayor 1 day longer than father" Associated Press December 26, 2010
  2. ^ Chicago Tribune, April 7, 2015
  3. ^
  4. ^ Hardy, Thomas (July 7, 1995). "Gov. Edgar To End City Partisan Votes". Chicago Tribune. 
  5. ^ "Chicago Mayors". Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 8 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Mayor Eugene Sawyer Biography". Retrieved 2016-10-08. 


External links[edit]