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Lisa Schrader was chief of staff for Mayor Rahm Emanuel./Photo courtesy Brooke Collins 0

Where are they now? Life after Emanuel’s bunker

July 23rd, 2016

UPDATED with more names.

David Spielfogel, the former senior adviser and confidant to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is raising a small fund to start up several technology companies that tackle significant urban challenges.

He’s among the former mayoral aides finding nice landing pads after leaving the 5th floor bunker of City Hall. Their new careers may seem like a vacation, given they worked for a man known for wanting results yesterday. But City Hall jobs are stepping stones, too.

“It was grueling but the environment sharpens your intellect in a way few experiences can. We were in the thick of it and we were a family. The senior team literally spent every day with the mayor and each other for four years,” says former Chief of Staff Lisa Schrader, now a senior vice president at Hill & Knowlton Strategies. She was part of a core group of aides and advisers who started with Emanuel when he was elected in 2011. They’ve all moved on or moved to other areas of government over the past five-plus years.

David Spielfogel during a meeting with the mayor./Sun-Times photo.

Like any family, Schrader acknowledges, “We didn’t always agree but we all got to weigh in. We had each others’ backs and wouldn’t have survived without each other.”

She’s talking about the chief of staff position that’s seen four faces come and go since Emanuel’s first election. It’s a tough job, as the mayor has acknowledged (he held the position under President Barack Obama).

Emanuel’s first chief of staff was Theresa E. Mintle, who had the job two years before leaving to head Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Schrader (who was chief operating officer) stepped in. Forest Claypool followed for a bit after heading the CTA and before moving to Chicago Public Schools. Eileen Mitchell holds the job now.

A number of Emanuel staffers have transitioned to public-affairs careers–Schrader included.

Chris Mather, the mayor’s first director of communications, is now managing director at Purple Strategies. Sarah Hamilton, another communications chief, is now managing director at Kivvit. Becky Carroll was chief communications officer for CPS and now heads C-Strategies. Libby Langsdorf, a deputy communications director, is now vice president at Res Publica Group. And Tarrah Cooper, the mayor’s day-to-day press secretary, is managing director of Mercury public strategy firm.

“It certainly helps with crisis management and with managing large projects,” says Dick Simpson, of working on a mayor’s inner team. Simpson is political science professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and a former alderman. “You learn how to execute quickly and efficiently and that’s a valuable skill that business schools don’t always provide.”

Working for the mayor also opens doors. Cooper, for example, met most every person Emanual came in contact with during the five years she spent by his side. That’s an asset for her company, which has headquarters in New York and D.C. but wants a foothold in Chicago.

Some Emanuel expats meet regularly for breakfast to catch up and reminisce. They were there for a farewell party for John Tolva, the former chief technology officer who just moved to Denver.

Aides who left amid drama also have settled in to new careers. Former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, booted in wake of the Laquan McDonald case, is now CEO at GFM-Strategies; and Jean-Claude Brizard, the short-lived CEO of CPS, is an education consultant in D.C. (Brizard, of course, was replaced by Barbara Byrd Bennett, who awaits sentencing for bribery.)

Nonprofits have snagged a few Emanuel aides: former deputy for Education Beth Swanson is vice president of strategy and programs at Joyce Foundation; Jennifer Cizner was director of international relations and now is COO at Chicago Council on Global Affairs; former deputy chief of staff Meghan Harte heads the LISC neighborhood group and former chief service officer Jenne Myers is CEO of Chicago Cares.

Here’s where other top Emanuel staffers landed:

Lois Scott was city CFO; now president of Epoch Advisors LLC, a private financial services company. She recently was named to the board that oversees Chicago Stock Exchange.

Senior adviser Matt Hynes is managing director at GCM Grosvenor.

Deputy Mayor Mark Angelson teaches and governs at Northwestern University and serves as vice chairman of each of the Institute of International Education and the Joseph Biden Foundation.

Rosie Andolino, former Aviation commissioner, is CEO of British airport owner MAG’s new North American division.

Tom Powers, former Water Department commissioner, is now an owner with D.B. Sterlin, a Chicago-based engineering firm.

Michelle Boone, until recently the commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, left for Navy Pier.

Tonantzin Carmona and Sean Rapelyea left for jobs with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, respectively.

William Glunz, deputy director of Intergovernmental Affairs, is now a regional government affairs director at American Airlines.

Tom Alexander, a former deputy communications director, is COO of 1871 and former executive assistant Jeanne Reidy is vice president of events and content development at the 1871 entrepreneurial center at Merchandise Mart.

Lisa Duarte, a legislative counsel, is now vice president at Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Kevin Hauswirth, the mayor’s first social-media director, works for Purple Strategies.

Eve Rodriguez Montoya left her job as deputy press secretary to start her own communications company, which counts her family’s Dulcelandia Candy Stores as a client. (Sweet!)

Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein and social-media chief Ankur Thakkar now work in Washington D.C., and New York, respectively.

Mike Faulman was Emanuel’s personal aide before making a move to luxury-goods maker Shinola.

Pat Harney, a deputy commissioner in Transportation, works at Collins Engineers. And deputy policy chief Katherine Yager works at Bronner Group consulting.

And finally, some notable staffers who have left the mayor’s immediate office but remain  employed by other agencies in the administration include Mike Simmons, Felicia Davis and Maria Guerra.

LATE UPDATE: A few days after this story published, Kelley Quinn, the mayor’s primary spokesman until recently shifting to deputy chief of staff, has been hired as vice president of public affairs for Grisko.

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