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Pritzker credits departing top adviser Ruiz with making ‘enormous difference for our entire state’s education systems’

Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz was mum on the details of where he’s going, but said in a text to the Chicago Sun-Times that he “wasn’t looking to leave, but a great opportunity to return to private practice presented itself.”

Jesse Ruiz in 2015.
Jesse Ruiz in 2015.
Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times file

After more than two decades in government — the bulk working on education at the city, state and federal levels — Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz said Monday he is leaving the public sector to focus on practicing law to “pursue new challenges in the profession I love.”

Ruiz was mum on the details of where he’s going, but said in a text to the Chicago Sun-Times that he “wasn’t looking to leave, but a great opportunity to return to private practice presented itself.

“My future employer will likely announce my joining them sometime next month,” Ruiz said.

He added that before joining Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, he was a full-time, practicing corporate and securities lawyer for 22 years working for Faegre, Drinker, Biddle and Reath.

“I am fortunate to be able to complete 22 years of continuous public service at the city, state and federal level by serving as Governor Pritzker’s deputy governor for education,” Ruiz said in a text. “Thus, I have been able to enjoy parallel careers in public service, largely in public education, and law. I now want to return to focusing on my legal career.”

Ruiz did not respond to follow-up questions seeking more details about his return to the legal field.

Before his time in the governor’s office, Ruiz served for nearly seven years as chairman of the state’s Board of Education, followed by a two-year stint as the commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission.

Ruiz also spent nearly five years with Chicago Public Schools, serving as the vice president of the city’s board of education and, briefly, as CPS’ interim CEO.

Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools Jesse Ruiz speaks during a news conference in 2015.
Interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools Jesse Ruiz speaks during a news conference in 2015.
Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times file

The governor announced Ruiz’s departure Monday, crediting him with making “an enormous difference for our entire state’s education systems.”

At an unrelated news conference Monday, Pritzker thanked Ruiz, whom he said he’s known for more than 25 years, for his work.

“He is kind, he is loyal, he is committed to excellence for our state,” Pritzker said. “As of today, Jesse will be leaving the public sector, having served in his role with me for approaching three years and having made an enormous difference for our entire state’s education systems.

“I’ll miss him, but Jesse has more than earned his right to what I hope will be a life filled with less stress, fewer late night phone calls about classroom pandemic policies from me and every teacher and superintendent throughout the state of Illinois, and more time with his family that he loves so much.”

Along with his posts in public education, Ruiz served as president of the Chicago Park District’s board of commissioners. He also ran in the Democratic primary for Illinois attorney general in 2018, losing to Kwame Raoul, who went on to win the general election.

Democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general Jesse Ruiz campaigns at Manny’s Deli on Election Day in 2018.
Democratic candidate for Illinois attorney general Jesse Ruiz campaigns at Manny’s Deli on Election Day in 2018.
James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Ruiz is the latest member of Pritzker’s team to leave the administration.

In June, Pritzker announced that Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes would be leaving. Hynes, who served as the deputy governor of budget and economy, will be replaced by former state Sen. Andy Manar, whom the governor said in June will “provide immeasurably important perspective.”

Hynes’ last day with the administration is this week, a spokeswoman for Pritzker said.