Forrest Claypool

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Forrest Claypool

Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools (2015)
Cook County, 12th District Commissioner (2002-2006)

Originally from the small town of St. Elmo, Illinois, Claypool became active in Illinois Democratic politics early in his career, meeting Rahm Emanuel while working for unsuccessful Congressional candidate David Robinson in 1980 and then meeting David Axelrod, who was U.S. Senator Paul Simon's 1984 campaign manager, rising to Axelrod's deputy. Following the successful Simon campaign, Axelrod, Emanuel and Claypool formed a political consulting firm, Axelrod & Company.

As part of Axelrod's firm, Claypool consulted for Mayor Harold Washington's 1987 reelection campaign and then for Richard M. Daley's winning 1989 campaign (Emanuel served as Daley's chief fundraiser). Following the campaign, Claypool joined Mayor Daley's staff, becoming his chief of staff in 1991–for the first time. He went on to serve Daley in a number of roles, including chief of staff for a second time, reelection campaign manager and as Superintendent of the Chicago Parks District. As Parks head, he took over following Ed Kelly's decades-long management, infamously cutting hundreds of patronage positions, slashing the Parks payroll by 1,000 jobs, 25%, in a two-year period.

In 2002 Claypool took a turn at electoral politics, running to defeat Dan Rostenkowski machine holdover Ted Lechowitz for Cook County Board. As a County Commissioner, Claypool allied with Commissioners Tony Peraica and Larry Suffredin to strongly oppose Board President John Stroger's attempts to raise taxes and increase county head count, accusing him of padding payroll with patronage positions.

While becoming the darling of newspaper editorial boards, Claypool's efforts to cut county patronage, and history of cutting patronage in city government, did not endear him to political leaders across the city and county. Thus his anti-patronage history became a huge dead weight to carry when he ran for county-wide positions. Both in 2006, when he ran for Cook County Board President against John Stroger and in 2010, when he ran for the open Assessor position against Joe Berrios, he was strongly opposed by most Democratic Committeemen and struggled to win votes in the African American community, which historically is where most county workers (many positions he had cut or advocated cutting) come from.

In between running for electoral office, Claypool returned to Axelrod's consulting firm (now named AKP Consulting) to help manage Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Then, in 2011 he played a leading role in his friend Rahm Emanuel's run for mayor. Follow Emanuel's election, Claypool began to serve in a number of key administrative roles, including President of the Chicago Transit Authority, chief of staff and CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.


  • Southern Illinois University, B.A., Journalism
  • University of Illinois Law School, J.D.

Important Political Events

  • 1984, Joined Paul Simon's campaign for U.S. Senate
  • 1985, Co-founder of Axelrod & Associates political consulting firm, served as managing partner
  • 1991, Appointed Mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff
  • 1993, Appointed Superintendent of Chicago Parks District
  • 1996, Appointed Mayor Richard M. Daley's chief of staff second time
  • 1999, Appointed campaign manger for Richard M. Daley reelection
  • 2000, Appointed aid to then-Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn
  • 2002, Elected Cook County Commissioner, defeating Ted Lechowitz
  • 2006, Defeated for Cook County Board President by John Stroger
  • 2007, Joins AKPD political consulting firm
  • 2010, Defeated for Cook County Assessor by Joseph Berrios
  • 2011, Appointed President of Chicago Transit Authority by Mayor Rahm Emanuel
  • 2015, Appointed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's chief of staff
  • 2015, Appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools by Mayor Rahm Emanuel