Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s revolving door spun again on Monday with the departure of her chief of staff and the arrival of a new chief operating officer.
Maurice Classen will be replaced as chief of staff by Sybil Madison, currently deputy mayor for education and human services.
The job of recently departed chief operating officer Anne Sheahan will be filled by Paul Goodrich, a consultant whose resume includes stints at BNY Mellon Wealth Management and Bank of America.
Of all the jobs Lori Lightfoot has to fill, just one can make or break her day-to-day performance.
It’s chief of staff, a $195,000-a-year pressure-cooker that chewed up a dozen occupants during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s 22-year reign and five during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s two terms.
With those high stakes in mind, Lightfoot chose Classen, former director of strategy for the Chicago Police Department who served with Lightfoot on the Task Force for Police Accountability after the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Classen’s selection signaled two things about Lightfoot’s priorities.
She was determined to implement a risk-management system to rein in runaway settlements and judgments, most tied to police wrongdoing.
And she was equally focused on reducing violent crime, rebuilding shattered trust between citizens and police, and establishing a Mayor’s Office of Violence Prevention to treat violent crime as a public health crisis.
Classen, who declined to comment to the Sun-Times, departs City Hall without having achieved either of those goals.
Homicides and shootings have skyrocketed. Chicago is coming off its most violent weekend so far this year, with 12 people killed and 42 people wounded.
Compliance with the federal consent decree has been painfully slow. And Lightfoot has yet to deliver the civilian police oversight she promised during her first 100 days. The ordinance she drafted doesn’t come close to delivering the powers she promised.
Still, Lightfoot went out of her way praise Classen for having been “at the center of all of the good things this administration has accomplished over the last two years.”
“He has been my confidante, my supporter and has challenged me and us in ways that have inured to the benefit of all Chicagoans,” the mayor was quoted as saying in a press release.
As for Madison, Lightfoot said it has been an “absolute pleasure to watch” her “passion for equity, inclusion and public service deepen” over the last two years.
“Beyond these passions, Sybil also brings an impressive set of leadership and educational skills and experiences into this role which will help to ensure that our team builds on the work of these past two years and strengthens our ability to deliver values-driven outcomes for Chicagoans. “
Classen was no stranger to politics.
In 2010, he was campaign manager for an unsuccessful ballot measure to boost sales taxes to pay for criminal-justice services in Seattle.
The following year, Classen ran for the Seattle City Council himself — and lost to a popular member who turned 80 that year.
Classen hoped that election experience would prepare him for the difficult job of cobbling together a 26-vote majority for Lightfoot’s controversial ethics reforms and a budget certain to include painful budget cuts and tax increases.
“We believe that if we’re transparent and hold people accountable and work collaboratively to develop and implement policy, we’ll be able to work hand-in-glove with aldermen who represent their neighborhoods,” Classen said on the day the Sun-Times disclosed his appointment.
Madison takes over at a time of unprecedented turnover in the mayor’s cabinet. The mass exodus has been attributed to everything from coronavirus fatigue to a mid-term correction and Lightfoot’s abrasive management style and propensity to micromanage and publicly criticize some department heads.