MarySue Barrett resigning after 25 years at planning group

Her work at the Metropolitan Planning Council has included advocacy and research to support equitable growth.

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MarySue Barrett, president of the the Metropolitan Planning Council, during a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board on Wednesday, October 31, 2018.

MarySue Barrett

Sun-Times file

MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council since 1996, said Monday she is stepping down once the nonprofit organization finds a successor.

Barrett, 56, said the “round number” of 25 years of service helped her make the decision, along with her conviction that the council has made strides in promoting equitable solutions to how the region manages growth.

“I’ve been feeling the strength of this organization’s momentum” on issues such as racial reckoning and a recovery from the pandemic, she said. “I will be leaving MPC at a good place.”

She pointed to the council’s 2017 Cost of Segregation study, which quantified how racial injustice has hurt the Chicago area in lost lives and inhibited economic growth.

“This groundbreaking work centers equity in everything we do, including our recruitment of a future leader who champions the value of this work,” said Todd Brown, former chairman of the MPC board.

Barrett said she’s still deciding on her plans but hopes to continue working on critical issues in urban development. Before coming to the council, Barrett worked seven years for former Mayor Richard M. Daley, including time as his chief of policy.

The MPC has been a strong advocate for regional cooperation among private interests and government officials who often work at odds. It backed the creation of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and strengthening of the Regional Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.

Barrett said much of the council’s work involves brokering solutions and getting local officials to think beyond the borders of their communities.

Under Barrett, the council helped in the design and funding of the South Lake Shore Drive realignment, which created new lakefront parkland now called the Museum Campus. The organization also encouraged companies to start employer-assisted housing programs so people could live near their jobs.

When she started as president, the organization had a staff of 10 and a $1 million budget. This year, the staff is 30 people with a $4.3 million budget. In 2004, it raised more than $9 million for an endowment.

Barrett said the council will hire an outside firm to help find a successor.

Melissa Washington, the board chairwoman, praised Barrett for her “passionate commitment to reverse structural inequities through solutions that disrupt the status quo.”

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