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MarySue Barrett


Since 1996, MarySue Barrett has served as president of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), which for 80 years has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges.

Known for building strong partnerships rooted in respect, listening and trust, MPC bridges gaps between the public and private sectors to enable creative, effective problem-solving to address local development challenges and advance regional policy solutions.  

MPC works to solve today's urgent problems—with a focus on economic development, vibrant neighborhoods, quality housing and transportation choices and well-managed natural assets—but also thinks ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. While MPC's work is grounded in greater metropolitan Chicago, its solutions can be put to work in cities and regions across the U.S. and around the world.

Prior to joining MPC, Ms. Barrett served in former Mayor Richard M. Daley's first administrations, holding positions of increasing responsibility over seven years. Ms. Barrett began her municipal government work in 1989 in the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and was promoted in 1993 to chief of policy, coordinating initiatives on public safety, economic and community development, and lifelong education. In 1995, she was recruited by Mayor Daley to serve as chief of staff to the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, part of a new management team charged with bringing revolutionary change to the Chicago Public Schools. Ms. Barrett counts among her top accomplishments Chicago's successful implementation of community policing and the City's successful bid to host the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

Ms. Barrett is a steering committee member of World Business Chicago’s Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs and serves on the Advisory Boards of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, Harris School’s Visiting Committee at the University of Chicago, and Illinois Issues magazine. She is also active with The Chicago Network and the Economic Club of Chicago.

Ms. Barrett has a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University. She has been selected to participate in leadership exchanges sponsored by the International Women's Forum (1996), the American Council on Germany (1996), the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (1997), the British American Project (2003), and Rockefeller Foundation (2009) and Brookings Institution (2008 and 2011). She completed a Leadership Greater Chicago fellowship in 1994 and was honored that same year as one of Crain's Chicago Business "40 Under 40."


MPC staff, volunteers explore how region’s shifting demographics will affect growth and development
On January 26th, I was lucky to participate in a forum to learn from six sharp minds and then discuss the implications with my colleagues. Here’s what I learned about the metropolitan Chicago based on 2010 Census data: A greater percentage of Chicago-area residents are 65 or older. A…
Chicagoland Case: A Region Learns to Help Itself
For nearly 100 years, through the 1980s, Chicago’s south suburbs were rich with opportunity. Steel mills and rail yards powered metropolitan Chicago’s economy, putting the local workforce in high demand. As the nation transitioned to a service-based economy – decades before the…
Inspiring investments, inspired leadership essential to strengthening Illinois' economy
On the eve of Election Day, Illinois voters are deciding which candidates they trust to calm our economic storms. Whether green or seasoned, tomorrow’s winners will confront historic budget deficits and cloudy fiscal forecasts at all levels of government, and most policy experts agree they…
Even at mid-speed, rail improvements can crank up Illinois' economy
This op-ed by MPC President MarySue Barrett appeared in Crain's Chicago Business May 3, 2010. As Illinois and neighboring states explore how a high-speed rail network could transform the Midwest, the Chicago area stands to gain employment and attract new economic development. The question is, how…
Chicago modeling livable communities
This letter ran 4/13/2010 in the Chicago Tribune. For years, we’ve known that many local workers – the proverbial teachers, nurses and firefighters, plus dozens of other professionals – cannot afford to purchase a home in metropolitan Chicago (“Make less than $62k?…

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Photo of MarySue Barrett


MarySue Barrett President
312 863 6001

Areas of expertise

  • Civic innovation
  • Policy strategy
  • Strategic communications
  • Writing and public speaking
  • Advocacy and mobilization


B.S., Communications, Northwestern University

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Helping create competitive, equitable, and sustainable communities

For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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