Before serving as Chicago’s top executive, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was a corporate litigator and police prosecutor. Lightfoot is an Ohio native who got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan and her law degree at the University of Chicago Law School. After law school, Lightfoot first worked for the legal firm Mayer Brown for six years.
In 1996, Lightfoot became Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. In that role, Lightfoot led the investigation and prosecution of 15th Ward Ald. Virgil Jones as part of the Silver Shovel Investigation. In 2002, Lightfoot became Chief Administrator at the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards. Later, she rejoined Mayer Brown and served as outside counsel for Bank of America and worked on police-related cases.
In June 2015, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Lightfoot to head the nine-member Chicago Police Board, in the fallout over the Laquan McDonald case later that same year, Lightfoot was appointed to the Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force. The task force eventually recommended doing away with the Independent Police Review Authority, appointing a new Deputy Inspector General to monitor the police department and creating a civilian-led oversight commission to set police department policy — the latter was accomplished during Lightfoot’s first term as mayor while the others were completed under Emanuel.
Lightfoot ran for mayor in a crowded 2019 field and made it to the runoff against Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle after finishing in first place with 18 percent of the vote in the first round. In the runoff, Lightfoot trounced Preckwinkle handily, winning in all 50 of the city’s wards.
As mayor, Lightfoot has often had an abrasive relationship with the City Council and has been criticized for how she handled the city’s response to racial justice protests in 2020, such as raising bridges to protect the Loop from property damage. Some of her legislative and administrative accomplishments, however, include passing ethics reforms such as a ban on “cross-lobbying,” the legalization of Accessory Dwelling Units and an overhaul the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance and the pandemic-era “Chi Biz Strong” business recovery package.
During her 2023 reelection effort, Lightfoot’s campaign was criticized for emailing Chicago Public Schools teachers to ask if students would volunteer for the campaign in exchange for class credit. While initially saying it was a common practice, Lightfoot’s campaign later called it inappropriate and said it would not happen again, with Lightfoot herself calling it a “well intentioned” “mistake.”
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