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Former Obama Commerce lawyer to head Civic Committee

Kelly Welsh (left) will succeed Ty Fahner as president of The Civic Committee.

Kelly Welsh (left) will succeed Ty Fahner as president of The Civic Committee. | Provided photos

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago on Wednesday announced Kelly Welsh, a former Obama administration official, will replace Ty Fahner as the business organization’s president.

The private, not-for-profit group is comprised of senior executives from the area’s largest employers. Under Fahner’s leadership, it has aimed to raise awareness about state government’s crushing pension debt, supported charter schools, advocated for expansion of O’Hare Airport and led an initiative on police accountability.

Fahner, 74, a former Illinois attorney general, served as president of the organization for five years and will step down April 1. He was paid a base salary of $408,000, with other benefits bringing his total compensation to about $450,000, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service disclosures available.

Welsh said he’d be paid about the same amount. He said he’d continue to focus on the city and state’s dire financial straits, transportation infrastructure and school reform.

“These issues are at the top of the specific agenda and have been, and I’m more than eager to continue to focus on those three issues and hopefully advance things over the next couple of years,” Welsh said.

Chicago’s gun violence is also a large focus for the group, he added.

“It’s an issue that’s important for particularly the city but the entire state to get the level of violence down — the level of gun violence — down in the city of Chicago. And to re-establish a better connection between the community and the police,” Welsh said.

Welsh, 64, was appointed general counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce by President Barack Obama in 2014, serving until the start of this year. He served as corporation counsel for the city of Chicago under Mayor Richard M. Daley and as a chairman of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. He’s also a former partner at the Mayer Brown law firm.