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Forrest Claypool

Updated on November 16, 2012

Forrest Claypool

Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool is the former Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District, a $400 million government agency with 3,200 employees. He has also served as deputy state treasurer, and Chief of Staff to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. He is currently preparing for a future in health care reform.

Biography of Forrest Claypool

A Chicago Reformer


After receiving his bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University, and a law degree from the University of Illinois, Forest Claypool went to work as an attorney. He also worked in state and county government, including some time as deputy state treasurer and deputy commissioner of the Cook County Board of Appeals.


In 1984, Forest Claypool assisted a friend, David Alexrod, in founding the political consulting firm Alexrod and Associates, and served as the firm's managing partner until 1989. (David Alexrod would later achieve fame throughout Illinois politics, and especially as the chief advisor for both the Senate and Presidential campaign of President Barack Obama.) In 1989, Forest left the firm to work as chief of staff for Mayor Richard Daley. He was Mayor Daley's first Chief of Staff.

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In 1993, Mayor Daley appointed Forest Claypool as the CEO and Superintendent of the Chicago Park District. He was in charge of overhauling the park district, which was troubled at that time with even basic services not being performed. Under Claypool, many politically-appointed jobs were eliminated, and many services were improved. He also took money that he saved from layoffs and began to balance the books. For example, many park district services, such as the six golf courses, were privatized, saving money and even earning some profits for the park. One famous example was Soldier Field, which was partially privatized through leasing of parking lots - it turned a profit for the first time in history.

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After his success with the Chicago Park District, Forest returned to service as Chief of Staff to Mayor Daley from 1996 to 1998, and then managed the mayor's successful reelection campaign. As he became well known as a reformer, he ran for the Cook County Board in 2002. He upset incumbent Commissioner Ted Lechowicz in the Democratic primary and handily won the general election.


In the Cook County Board, Forest found friends and allies in two other first year commissioners, Larry Suffredin and Tony Peraica, as well as Commissioner Mike Quigley. In 2003, they made history by gathering enough swing votes to defeat County Board President John Stroger's 2004 budget, and again in 2005, which made headlines and caused Forest Claypool to become more of a household name as a reformer. In 2006, Forest ran for the Democratic nomination for County Board President, out raising every other candidate. He was supported by newspapers including both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, and was endorsed by fellow Commissioner Mike Quigley, then Representative Rahm Emanuel.l and then Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn. Despite this, he lost to John Stroger in the primary. Unfortunately, Stronger suffered a dehabilitating stroke a week before, and could not serve. The Cook County Democratic Party appointed Stroger's son, Todd Stroger, as the nominee Tony Peraica in the general election, which was seen as a controversial move. Todd Stroger went on to win the election. Claypool refused to endorse Stroger.


In June of 2009, Forrest shocked Chicagoans when he announced that despite being considered a front-runner for many years, he would not run for Cook County Board President. He will also not run for his seat again. Instead, he has a partnership in a new healthcare startup company, and said that he will attempt to reform the U.S. health care system on a national level. Due to his close relationship with David Alexrod, who is one of President Obama's closest advisors, it is rumored that Forrest may have some role to play in the administration's work on healthcare.

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Forrest Claypool On Jeff Berkowitz Program

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