Timothy J. Mitchell, Chicago’s former parks chief and a longtime aide to former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was found dead at his North Side home Wednesday. He was 49.
Mr. Mitchell, who was raised in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, got his start in politics at nearby Brother Rice High School, where his father was also the football coach. While his twin brother, Tom, gravitated towards sports, Mr. Mitchell involved himself in student government and politics, Tom Mitchell said.
Mr. Mitchell became a North Sider after attending Loyola University, his brother said. But he still did political work in the 19th Ward on the South Side, a longtime Democratic powerhouse.
His career really took off, though, in the 1980s while working for then-state’s attorney Daley. He remained a loyalist throughout Daley’s tenure in public office, holding high-profile positions until the mayor stepped down in 2011.
“He was the guy that made sure s – – – got done,” said former Daley aide John Doerrer. “He was a hard worker. He made sure that Mayor Daley’s vision, in some of the projects, got done.”
Friends say Mr. Mitchell had a brain that was wired for only two things: his career and Chicago politics.
“He grew up in a very sports orientated family with his father being a football coach. But Chicago politics — that was his sport,” said longtime friend and fellow Daley administration alum, Ken Meyer.
One of Mr. Mitchell’s duties for the former mayor was running part of the Daley political machine. He founded the pro-Daley Lakefront Independent Democratic Organization, a group that involved hundreds of city workers.
Witnesses in the 2006 trial of Daley’s patronage chief said Mr. Mitchell issued orders to political operatives at election time, but he was not charged with wrongdoing.
As the head of the Chicago Park District from 2004 to 2011, he oversaw improvements of park district facilities, friends and family said. After Daley ordered bulldozers to tear up the runway at Meigs Field, Mr. Mitchell worked to transform the former airfield into a 78-acre nature park.
Mr. Mitchell also had a planning role in Daley’s failed 2016 Olympics bid.
“He was behind the scenes, but a person to go and get things done,” said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who knew Mitchell’s family from his own days at Brother Rice.
“I would say ‘Tim, you don’t have to work 12-hour days. You have to take time for yourself,’ ” said Tunney.
Mr. Mitchell eventually did take some time off. Shortly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, he resigned as the head of the park district. Since then he had been working as a lobbyist and consultant, friends said.
Recently, Mr. Mitchell, who is survived by his twin brother Tom, had been in poor health. He died at his Andersonville home.
“I think that he put everyone else in front of his health and well being at times,” Tom Mitchell said.
Services are pending.
Contributing: Dan Mihalopoulos