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The Election is Over, But Gery Chico is Just Getting Started

Linze Rice

The mayoral election may be over, but former candidate and lifelong Chicagoan Gery Chico’s next chapter in helping uplift Chicago is ramping up.

“I’m a lifelong Chicagoan; I'm passionate about my city, I care about my city,” he said. “Just because you ended a campaign doesn’t mean the things you’ve said in the campaign are just for consumption at that time.”

As of June 2019, Chico takes over as the new Board Chair at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago. Prior to his candidacy in the 2019 Chicago mayoral election, Chico served in a number of public service roles, including: Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, Board Chairman for City Colleges of Chicago, Board President of the Chicago Park District, President of the Chicago Board of Education and Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley. In addition to being the new Board Chair at LISC, Chico is an attorney and current partner at Chico & Nunes, P.C.

It was an easy decision for Chico to join LISC, he said, after discussing the role with Executive Director Meghan Harte, his longtime friend and associate.

“LISC does a number of things that I have been passionate about in my career—affordable housing development, small business, neighborhood development planning—those are things that I’ve always been very interested in,” he said. “And I think the world of Meghan Harte, so when she talked with me about this, I said, ‘Of course.’”

“I’d like to work with somebody who I respect, someone who’s done a lot of good things for the city,” Chico added. “If we combine our efforts with our community partners, I think we’re going to see some really good results.”

The McKinley Park native said his experience living in at least nine different neighborhoods across the city’s north and south sides, West Loop and now Downtown, has given him valuable insight into what neighborhoods need to grow and thrive.

Gery Chico, LISC Chicago's new Board Chair
Gery Chico, LISC Chicago's new Board Chair
“I understand what neighborhoods need—especially when they’re being invested in. I’m excited about what we can do at LISC to bring an even greater amount of investment to them.”
— Gery Chico

And with the campaign now behind him, Chico said he’s still committed to sticking by the issues that are important, and hopes to work with LISC’s extensive network of neighborhood partners to put ambitious community-driven ideas into action.

“I don’t think whether you win or lose a campaign makes issues become any less relevant,” Chico said. “You’ve got to stay focused and I think LISC offers a really nice way for me to continue to build-up our city.”

Board Chair Priorities

Among his top priorities as LISC’s Board Chair are: promoting community business development, providing support to communities developing Quality-of-Life Plans (QLPs), and developing and supporting youth recreation programs that help curb violence.

“I would like to see more community business development,” he said. “There are some great corridors that over the years have provided an awful lot of support to communities, whether it’s with jobs or the goods and services they provide. They also serve as anchors for other development that breathe life into our neighborhoods, like schools and parks. I’m confident we can reinvigorate a number of our neighborhoods this way.”

Chico also said he sees commercial development in neighborhoods as a key component of growth, an aspect that many of LISCs QLPs have addressed. The new Board Chair said he wants to help more communities develop their own QLPs to serve as blueprints toward building a stronger future in a way that matches each community’s unique needs and visions.

“When I was running for mayor, I would literally wave around the Quality-of-Life Plans that LISC had done in different neighborhoods,” Chico said. “If you look at these plans and what they call for, like public thoroughfares, what public transportation improvements should be made, what business improvements should be made—these Quality-of-Life Plans serve as a blueprint for how to bring back neighborhoods and they come direct from people that live and work in the community.”

“LISC has taken on a very important function of planning,” he said. “And I think we ought to be working with the city, with communities, more closely to execute these plans and flesh them out entirely.”

As Board Chair, Chico said he’s also prepared to help tackle serious challenges like, violence. By investing in community-driven initiatives like education, youth and more, he hopes to empower neighborhoods and their residents in all the ways they need—a strategy that will help to reduce violence.

“I believe if you give people in our neighborhoods positive things to do—jobs, schools, a nice house to live in, transportation that’s predictable and accessible—I think that people will do positive things and we can reduce violence. LISC is a good part of the answer for how we bring that around.”
— Gery Chico

In particular, Chico said he’d like to continue supporting existing violence prevention recreational sports programs like LISC’s “Hoops in the Hood”, which are run by LISC’s neighborhood partners, as well as think of new ways to give youth positive experiences.

“When LISC began to sponsor the program ‘Hoops in the Hood,’ that was a very, very important thing to do,” he said. “You can’t always rely on government to do it, and the fact that LISC can step in and provide that kind of critical support just makes our city even better.”

Looking Forward

In his new role, Chico also hopes to bring his vast network of existing relationships to the table to help LISC’s neighborhood partners further their goals.

“I’m coming to this to bring everything I have to help the organization and help communities,” he said. “When everybody works together we can accomplish more. We are the logical partner to be working with the city and all these community organizations in rebuilding our neighborhoods. I mean, we’ve got some pretty ambitious goals, and in order to make that happen, we may have to be tapping into sources that we’ve not tapped thus far.”

Ultimately, Chico said he hopes to build on LISC’s existing work to support plans that move Chicago’s neighborhoods forward, and that he can assist in ensuring residents all have the opportunity to live happily and comfortably.

“This is a great organization,” Chico said. “It’s my chance to help hold the wheel and really drive the agenda for a little while, and I hope to add some new ideas along the way, and some new perspective and relationships to the work they’re doing. With LISC, their success isn’t measured in money, it’s measured in people—and it’s one of the ways we should really assess if our neighborhoods are healthy or not. Does everyone have what they need to live a nice quality of life?”

“I want people to think when they’re older, ‘Wow, I really had a nice experience growing up in that neighborhood, and it enables me to do what I do today.’”