MarySue Barrett is a policy change-maker who designs effective and equitable urban solutions through creative collaboration across governments, businesses, philanthropy, and communities. During her more than two decades as president of the independent Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Ms. Barrett has built bridges across the public and private sectors to solve metropolitan Chicago’s urgent planning and development challenges. She helps refine the tactics that benefit all cities and build a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone.
MPC believes every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. Ms. Barrett is a proven team-builder, leading difficult conversations about disrupting the status quo, calling out racism, and shifting power. She is often tapped to deconstruct Chicago’s and MPC’s success stories as models for cities across the globe, offering constructive analysis when we fail to unlock our region’s full potential for sustainability and equity.
Prior to leading MPC, Barrett served in former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's Administration as his Chief of Policy. She counts among her top government accomplishments the early implementation of community policing and the City's successful bid to host the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Tapping her deep knowledge of government, Ms. Barrett has guided many task forces and assisted transition committees for both Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ill. Gov. JB Pritzker.
In 2020, Ms. Barrett was a steering committee member of the City of Chicago’s Recovery Task Force, charged with surfacing strategies for a post-COVID-19 equitable recovery. She serves on the board of Current, a non-profit supporting innovative water solutions, and on the Board of Directors of IFF, a Community Development Finance Institution. Ms. Barrett is a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. She is also active with Leadership Greater Chicago, The Chicago Network, and the Economic Club of Chicago.
She holds a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and enjoys public speaking and writing, such as a recent guest column in Crain’s titled “What we do now writes the future Chicago needs.”
Ms. Barrett lives in the Lakeview neighborhood and has two college-aged children. She can’t wait to return to attending theater and dance performances and to traveling the world as a home swapper.
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Areas of expertise
- Civic innovation
- Policy strategy
- Strategic communications
- Writing and public speaking
- Advocacy and mobilization
B.S., Communications, Northwestern University