The Perfect: Mayor

Chicago facts, figures & findings

The Perfect: Mayor
Over its relatively young life, Chicago has lived under 45 mayors-some successful, some calamitous, some forgettable, and at least one, “Long John” Wentworth, who once told voters, “You damned fools-you can either vote for me for mayor or you can go to hell.” But none has had the combination of virtues to rank as the ideal officeholder. So we asked an expert on Chicago’s mayors, Paul Green, of Roosevelt University, to dream up the “perfect” mayor, based on three criteria: intelligence, civic vision, and rhetorical gifts. Who knows- the winner could be on the next ballot. After all, this is Chicago.

 

The Brain
Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne (31st mayor of Chicago, 1905-07)
“This is really tough,” says Green. “If you’re talking pure intellect, probably the one that comes to mind is Edward Dunne. He is the only mayor to go on to higher office [he was governor of Illinois from 1913 to 1917] and he wrote a marvelous history of Illinois [Illinois: The Heart of the Nation]. But, when it comes to understanding government, there’s nobody like Richard J. Daley.”

The Vision
Richard M. Daley (45th mayor of Chicago, 1989 to present)
“Richard M. has a direction he wants to take the city. He consistently has big ideas: moving Chicago into a tourism and trade city; the expansion of O’Hare, which is an absolute necessity; and the beautification of downtown. Taking over the schools, taking over public housing-all mayors would run away from those things, but he believes he can do the job better than anybody.”

The Mouth
Harold Washington (42nd mayor of Chicago, 1983-87)
“Harold Washington was the best orator.   He was a man who could coin a phrase. He had a way with words-even if sometimes he made them up. But, really, most Chicago mayors would never be mistaken for Patrick Henry- let’s leave it at that.”


 

You Should Know

Longest mayoral term: Richard J. Daley Served six terms; his 21-year reign stretched from 1955 to 1976

Shortest mayoral term: David Orr Served as interim mayor following Harold Washington’s death in 1987; served for six days, 14 hours, and 28 minutes

Last Republican to hold office: William “Big Bill” Thompson Served three terms (1915-23, 1927-31); defeated in 1931 by Anton Cermak

Six of the last seven mayors were Roman Catholic

Before the Daleys there was another father-son political dynasty: Carter Harrison I (1879-87; 1893) and Carter Harrison II (1897-1905, 1911-15)

 

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