Mayor of Chicago
Seal of the City of Chicago
Brandon Johnson
since May 15, 2023
Government of Chicago
  • His Honor
  • The Honorable
Term length4 years
Inaugural holderWilliam B. Ogden
SuccessionVice mayor of Chicago
WebsiteOfficial website

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.


William B. Ogden was the first mayor of Chicago.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leaving "The Fifth Floor" office of the mayor in 2016

The first mayor was William B. Ogden (1837–1838). Forty-six men and two women (Jane Byrne, 1979–1983, and Lori Lightfoot, 2019–2023), have held the office. Two sets of father and son have been elected Mayor of Chicago: Carter Harrison, Sr. (1879–1887, 1893) and Carter Harrison, Jr. (1897–1905, 1911–1915), as well as Richard J. Daley (1955–1976) and Richard M. Daley (1989–2011). Carter Harrison, Jr. was the first mayor to have been born in the city.

As an interim mayor, David Duvall Orr (1987) held the office for one week, the shortest time period. Richard M. Daley was elected six times becoming Chicago's longest-serving mayor, his 22 years surpassing his father's record of 21 years.[1]

The first Irish Catholic mayor was John Patrick Hopkins (1893–1895), and Rahm Emanuel (2011–2019) is the only Jewish American to have served as mayor.

Harold Washington (1983–1987) was the first African American mayor. Lightfoot (2019–2023) was the city's first African American woman and first LGBT mayor. Brandon Johnson (2023–present) is the third elected African American mayor, Eugene Sawyer (1987–1989) having been selected by the council after Washington died in office.

Appointment powers

The mayor appoints the commissioner of the Chicago Fire Department, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department and the heads of other departments,[2] 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. The mayor also appoints members to the boards of several special-purpose governmental bodies including City Colleges of Chicago, 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 alderpersons 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.

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 in most other weak-mayor systems, the mayor 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.[3] Located in City Hall, "the fifth floor" is sometimes used as a metonym for the office and power of the mayor.[4]

Election and succession

Main article: Mayoral elections in Chicago

The mayor of Chicago is elected by popular vote every four years, on the last Tuesday in February. A run-off election, in case 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,[5][6] 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.[6][7] 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.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

List of mayors

Joseph Medill (#26) was the first foreign-born mayor.
John Patrick Hopkins (#35) was the youngest and the first Catholic mayor.
William Hale Thompson (#41) was the last Republican mayor of Chicago.
Jane Byrne (#50) was the first female mayor.
Harold Washington (#51) was the first African American mayor.
Richard M. Daley (#54) was the longest-serving mayor (22 years).
Lori Lightfoot (#56) was the first African American woman mayor of Chicago.

Between 1833 and 1837, Chicago was incorporated as a town and headed by town presidents. Since 1837, it has been incorporated as a city and headed by 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.

#No.[12] Image Name Term start Term end Terms Years   Party
Town presidents
1 Thomas Jefferson Vance Owen August 12, 1833 1834 1 1 None
John H Kinzie c1850s.png
John H. Kinzie 1834 March 4, 1837 3 3 Whig
William B Ogden by GPA Healy, 1855.jpg
William B. Ogden 1837 1838 1 1 Democratic
Buckner Morris (1).jpg
Buckner S. Morris 1838 1839 1 1 Whig
Benjamin W. Raymond 1839 1840 1 1 Whig
Alexander Loyd 1840 1841 1 1 Democratic
Francis C. Sherman 1841 1842 1 1 Democratic
Benjamin W. Raymond 1842 1843 1 1 Whig
Augustus Garrett 1843 1844 1 1 Democratic
Alson Sherman 1844 1845 1 1 Independent Democratic
Augustus Garrett 1845 1846 1 1 Democratic
John P. Chapin 1846 1847 1 1 Whig
James Curtiss 1847 1848 1 1 Democratic
James H. Woodworth 1848 1850 2 2 Independent Democratic
James Curtiss 1850 1851 1 1 Democratic
WalterSGurneeSenorAnderson (a).png
Walter S. Gurnee 1851 1853 2 2 Democratic
Charles McNeill Gray 1853 1854 1 1 Democratic
Isaac-milliken (1).jpg
Isaac L. Milliken 1854 1855 1 1 Democratic
Levi Boone 1855 1856 1 1 American
(Know Nothing)
Thomas-dyer (1).jpg
Thomas Dyer 1856 1857 1 1 Democratic
John Wentworth of Chicago.jpeg
John Wentworth 1857 1858 1 1 Republican
John C. Haines 1858 1860 2 2 Republican
John Wentworth of Chicago.jpeg
John Wentworth 1860 1861 1 1 Democratic
Julian S. Rumsey 1861 1862 1 1 Republican
Francis C. Sherman 1862 1865 2 2 Democratic
John B. Rice 1865 1869 2 4 Republican
Roswell B. Mason 1869 1871 1 2 Citizens[a]
Joseph Medill.jpg
Joseph Medill 1871 1873 1 2 Republican (Dry)
Lester Legrand Bond.jpg
Lester L. Bond
1873 1873 14 12 Republican
Harvey Doolittle Colvin 1873 1875 1 2 Republican (Wet)
Monroe Heath.jpg
Monroe Heath 1876 1879 2 4 Republican
Carter Harrison, Sr. - Brady-Handy.jpg
Carter Harrison Sr. 1879 1887 4 8 Democratic
John Roche.jpg
John A. Roche 1887 1889 1 2 Republican
DeWitt Clinton Cregier old portrait.jpg
DeWitt C. Cregier 1889 1891 1 2 Democratic
Hempstead Washburne.jpg
Hempstead Washburne 1891 1893 1 2 Republican
Carter Harrison, Sr. - Brady-Handy.jpg
Carter Harrison Sr. 1893 1893 14 12 Democratic
George Bell Swift, Mayor of Chicago.jpg
George Bell Swift
(interim mayor)
1893 1893 112 16 Republican
John Patrick Hopkins.jpg
John P. Hopkins 1893 1895 23 113 Democratic
George Bell Swift, Mayor of Chicago.jpg
George Bell Swift 1895 1897 1 2 Republican
Carter Henry Harrison cph.3c23214.jpg
Carter Harrison Jr. 1897 1905 4 8 Democratic
Portrait of Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne.jpg
Edward F. Dunne 1905 1907 1 2 Democratic
Fred A. Busse 1907 1911 1 4 Republican
Carter Henry Harrison cph.3c23214.jpg
Carter Harrison Jr. 1911 1915 1 4 Democratic
William Hale Thompson head shot.tif
William H. Thompson 1915 1923 2 8 Republican
William Emmett Dever 1923.jpg
William E. Dever 1923 1927 1 4 Democratic
William Hale Thompson head shot.tif
William H. Thompson 1927 1931 1 4 Republican
Anton Cermak cph.3b27410.jpg
Anton Cermak 1931 1933 12 2 Democratic
45 Frank J. Corr
(acting mayor)
1933 1933 241461 24365 Democratic
Edward J. Kelly 1933 1947 3 12 14 Democratic
Martin H. Kennelly (72-599).jpg
Martin H. Kennelly 1947 1955 2 8 Democratic
Richard J. Daley in 1962.jpg
Richard J. Daley 1955 1976 5 38 21 Democratic
Judge Michael A. Bilandic.png
Michael A. Bilandic 1976 1979 58 2 13 Democratic
JaneByrne1985 (a).jpg
Jane Byrne 1979 1983 1 4 Democratic
Washington h.jpg
Harold Washington 1983 1987 1 18 4 712 Democratic
David Orr on Live from the Heartland July 23 2012 (1).png
David Orr
(acting mayor)[13]
1987 1987 71461 7365 Democratic
Eugene Sawyer (2041465864 2bc2900d9a m).jpg
Eugene Sawyer 1987 1989 1748 112 Democratic
RMDaleyCropped (a).png
Richard M. Daley 1989 2011 5 12 22 Democratic1
Rahm Emanuel, official photo portrait color.jpg
Rahm Emanuel 2011 2019 2 8 Democratic1
Lori Ligfhtfoot at signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (FEQycLjWYAITszv).jpg
Lori Lightfoot 2019 2023 1 4 Democratic1
Brandon Johnson with Byron Sigcho-Lopez (cropped).jpg
Brandon Johnson 2023 present 1 Democratic1

Died/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, Lori Lightfoot, and Brandon Johnson are known to be Democrats.[14]

Vice mayor

Vice mayor of Chicago
Seal of the City of Chicago
Walter Burnett
since May 15, 2023
Inaugural holderCasey Laskowski

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 Walter Burnett.

The position was created by a state law that was passed in response to the power struggle that took place over succession following Richard J. Daley's death in office.[9][15][16]

If neither the mayor nor president pro tempore can preside over a City Council meeting, then the vice mayor presides.[11]

The position was long considered to be largely ceremonial.[17][18][19] However, in 2023, Mayor Brandon Johnson successfully championed a resolution that gave the office a $400,000 budget. He also had his vice mayor, Burnett, act as an official community liaison for the mayoral administration.[20]

List of vice mayors

Vice-Mayor Tenure Mayor(s) serve under Notes Citations
Casey Laskowski 1976–1979 Michael Bilandic [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 [8][24][25]
Terry Gabinski 1988–1998 Eugene Sawyer
Richard M. Daley
Bernard Stone 1998–2011 Richard M. Daley [25][27][28]
Ray Suarez 2011–2015 Rahm Emanuel [17][18]
Brendan Reilly 2015–2019 Rahm Emanuel [29][30]
Tom Tunney 2019–2023 Lori Lightfoot [7]
Walter Burnett 2023–present Brandon Johnson [31]

See also


  1. ^ The party sited as "Citizens" was created in the 1970s.


  1. ^ "Daley now Chicago mayor 1 day longer than father" Archived 2011-01-01 at the Wayback Machine Associated Press December 26, 2010
  2. ^ Pratt, Gregory (May 22, 2018). "Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces key hires for her new administration, some Rahm Emanuel appointees will stay". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 22, 2019 – via MSN.
  3. ^ "Government, City of Chicago". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Archived from the original on August 15, 2011. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  4. ^ Shepard, Steven (February 26, 2019). "Black women make history in Chicago mayoral election". Politico. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  5. ^ "65 ILCS 20/21-5.1". Illinois General Assembly. Government of Illinois. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "About City Government & the Chicago City Council". City Clerk of Chicago. September 21, 2015. Archived from the original on March 5, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Spielman, Fran (May 17, 2019). "Lightfoot shakes up the City Council". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on May 22, 2019. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Pratt, Gregory (May 7, 2018). "Wilson Frost remembered: 'He should've been Chicago's first black mayor'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  9. ^ a b King, Seth S. (December 29, 1976). "Bilandic, Lawyer and Daley Friend, Named Acting Mayor of Chicago". The New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  10. ^ Harold, the People's Mayor: The Biography of Harold Washington by Dempsey Travis, Agate Publishing, Dec 12, 2017
  11. ^ a b Krebs, Timothy B. "MONEY AND MACHINE POLITICS An Analysis of Corporate and Labor Contributions in Chicago City Council Elections" (PDF). Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "Chicago Mayors". Chicago Public Library. Archived from the original on March 22, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  13. ^ "Chicago Mayors, 1837-2007". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  14. ^ Hardy, Thomas (July 7, 1995). "Gov. Edgar To End City Partisan Votes". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Devlin, Hugh (March 29, 2010). "Another City Council Stealth Budget". Chicago Talks. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  16. ^ "65 ILCS 20/21-5.1". Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Spielman, Fran (May 20, 2015). "City Council shuffle rewards Emanuel allies". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on December 7, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Dumke, Mick (May 18, 2011). "The first meeting of the new mayor and City Council is nothing if not efficient". Chicago Reader. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  19. ^ Dumke, Mick (January 5, 2006). "A Million Here, a Million There . . ". Chicago Reader. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  20. ^ Multiple sources
  21. ^ "CASIMIR LASKOWSKI, 84". Chicago Tribune. August 18, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  22. ^ Colby, Peter W.; Peter W. Colby and Paul Michael Green, Paul Michael (February 1979). "The vote power of Chicago Democrats from Cermak to Bilandic The consolidation of clout". Illinois Issues: 20. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  23. ^ "Chicago City Council: Richard Mell". NBC Chicago. November 11, 2011. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Dold, R. Bruce (May 26, 1988). "COUNCIL REPLACES ORR AS VICE MAYOR". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Simpson, Dick (2018). Rogues, Rebels, And Rubber Stamps: The Politics Of The Chicago City Council, 1863 To The Present. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-429-97719-0. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  26. ^ Tribune, Chicago (May 5, 1988). "GABINSKI'S TOP AIDE LIKELY TO SUCCEED HIM". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  27. ^ "Chicago's Vice Mayor". Chicago Tonight. WTTW. April 10, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  28. ^ Geiger, Kim; Washburn, Gay (December 22, 2014). "Former Chicago Alderman Bernie Stone dead at 87". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  29. ^ Sullivan, Emmet. "What Would Actually Happen if Rahm Resigns". Chicago Magazine. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  30. ^ Pratt, John Byrne, Juan Perez Jr, Gregory. "Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot aces first test of her power: City Council overhaul approved". Retrieved May 29, 2019.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ Spielman, Fran (June 1, 2023). "Inside the political survival of Chicago City Council dean". Chicago Sun-Times.

Further reading