Metropolitan Planning Council Initiating Search for Successor to President MarySue Barrett on Strength of 25 Years of Exemplary Service - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Metropolitan Planning Council Initiating Search for Successor to President MarySue Barrett on Strength of 25 Years of Exemplary Service

Barrett will continue to serve as president during the search process

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) announced today it is initiating a search to identify a successor to longtime President MarySue Barrett, to lead the organization’s mission to build a better, bolder more equitable future for everyone in the Chicago region.

Befitting an organization with “Planning” as its middle name, MPC’s Board supports Barrett’s decision to pursue her next challenge, and is thankful that she will continue to serve in her current role during the thorough search process for MPC‘s new President, ensuring continuity of leadership. To guide MPC’s succession plan, the Executive Committee of the Board has formed a Search Committee and a Transition Team.

“MarySue is widely known for her passionate commitment to reverse structural inequities through solutions that disrupt the status quo,” reflected Board Chair Melissa Washington. “Because of her integrity and the organization’s knack for problem solving, MPC has earned the trust of a wide range of partners, from public officials to community organizers, from the media to corporate executives. We’re extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”

MPC’s leadership transition is happening at an important time for metropolitan Chicago as it grapples with how to recover equitably in the wake of the pandemic, economic and political upheaval, and increased focus on racial inequities. Former Board Chair Todd Brown noted that both Barrett and the organization have been influenced by MPC’s seminal 2017 Cost of Segregation study, which tallied lost income, lost lives, and lost potential. “This groundbreaking work centers equity in everything we do, including our recruitment of a future leader who champions the value of this work.” 

“MPC is an incredible force for good. I’m humbled to be part of an 87-year history of making positive change. Words are inadequate to convey my profound gratitude to all those who have been my coaches and partners, and who have inspired MPC to be bold. And every day, I’ve learned alongside the smartest, most ethical and creative colleagues who are my extended family,” noted Barrett, who was hired as MPC President in 1996. “Given our commitment to MPC, the Board and I have prepared carefully for succession. It was an emotional decision for me, but now is the right time to explore options for my next act. I’m excited to discover where I can continue to contribute. And I’m excited to see what MPC’s current and future leaders will build, together.”

During Barrett’s tenure, some of MPC’s major accomplishments — all of which happened thanks to collective action with partners — include:

  • Maintaining a steady drumbeat for regional cooperation, planning, and governance, through formation of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and a strengthened Regional Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Mayors Caucus; 
  • Helping secure the funding and vision for the reconfiguration of South Lake Shore Drive, creating precious new public green space, known today as Chicago’s Museum Campus;
  • Designing employer-assisted housing incentives offered by 70 Illinois companies to help their employees live-near-work, an initiative replicated in 15 other U.S. regions in the mid-2000s;
  • Supporting innovative infrastructure investment strategies, but opposing the proposed Illiana expressway which would have asked the public to absorb all the risk;
  • Launching Great Rivers Chicago in 2016, an expansive vision for our region’s 150-miles of the Chicago, Des Plaines and Calumet riverfronts to become more inviting, productive and living;
  • Spearheading the Cost of Segregation study in 2017, and a 2018 Roadmap for Our Equitable Future, which prioritized two dozen near-term actions, and challenged every institution to center equity in its decision-making;
  • Advocating changes to who benefits from improvements in affordable housing, lead in water, urban flooding, community amenities and more, exemplified by 2019’s historic increase in transit’s share of the $45 B Rebuild Illinois package; and
  • Together with a dedicated Board and staff, growing the organization from a 10-person, $1 M budget in 1996 to a 30-person, $4.3 M budget in 2021, and in 2004, raising more than $9 M for an organizational endowment.

Immediate past Chair Ellen Carnahan noted how pivotal Barrett’s leadership was during the trauma of 2020. “MarySue has a gift for bringing the best minds together. She’s helped MPC recruit an incredibly talented staff, a diverse and dedicated Board, and loyal allies and investors. Together, we will continue to build momentum and solve problems during this transition — and well beyond — for our organization, our communities, our city, region, state, and country.”

About MPC:

Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth.



MPC Executive Assistant Sasha Marroquin

312-863-6012 or 773-719-0743



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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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