About Chicago Government

Originally settled by Jon Baptiste Point de Sable in the 1770s and incorporated as a city on March 4, 1837, Chicago developed from a small trading center on the shores of Lake Michigan to the vibrant modern metropolis of today. The city is divided into municipal legislative districts called “wards,” each represented in City Council by an Alderman. The original six wards established under the city’s first charter in 1837 have grown to the 50 now in effect. The City of Chicago is a home rule unit of government under the Illinois Constitution and thereby authorized to perform certain functions pertaining to its government and affairs. The powers and duties of the City of Chicago are exercised by the Mayor, the City Clerk, the City Treasurer, and the City Council.

Rahm Emanuel
2011 – Present
Office of the Mayor

The Mayor is the chief executive of the city and responsible for the administration and management of various city departments. The Mayor submits proposals and recommendations to the City Council and is active in the enforcement of the city’s ordinances. The Mayor also submits the city’s annual budget and appoints city officers, department commissioners or directors, and members of city boards and commissions.

During meetings of the City Council, the Mayor serves as the presiding officer of the City Council. In the absence of the Mayor, the President Pro Tempore, who is a member of and elected by the City Council, acts as presiding officer. The Mayor submits proposals and recommendations to the City Council of his own accord and on behalf of city departments.

Although a member of the City Council, the Mayor is not allowed to vote on issues except in certain instances, for example where the vote taken on a matter before the body results in a tie. However, the President Pro Tempore can vote on all legislative matters.

Susana A. Mendoza
City Clerk
2011 – Present

The City Clerk is the official record keeper for the City Council and the designated repository for city documents. The City Clerk also maintains the corporate seal of the city and publishes the official legislative record of City Council actions in the Journal of Proceedings and related pamphlets as directed by state or municipal law or upon direction of the City Council.

» Read more about the Office of the City Clerk.

» Read more about City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza.

Kurt Summers, Jr.
Dec. 1, 2014 – Present
Office of the City Treasurer

The City Treasurer is the custodian and manager of all cash and investments for the City of Chicago, the four City employee pension funds and the Chicago Teacher’s Pension.

In addition, the Treasurer’s Office manages a number of programs that promote economic development in Chicago.

Each year the Treasurer is required to file an annual report with the City Council summarizing the city’s investment portfolio including the monies received, invested and dispersed.

Find Your Alderman

Use the Ward/Aldermanic/Zone Look-Up Tool to see who your .

Aldermen are legislators and members of the City Council who serve a four year term to represent the residents of a district or area of the city known as a ward. Nominated by petition of the voters of each ward, elections are held on the last Tuesday in February in the year preceding the presidential election. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in that election, a run-off election between the two highest candidates is held on the first Tuesday in April of the same year.

By custom, an alderman is a source of information and intermediary on behalf of their constituency about city functions and services within the ward. Many aldermen maintain an office within the ward to provide greater service to their constituents.

The City Council is the legislative branch of government of the City of Chicago. In accordance with Illinois law (65 ILCS 5/3.1-40-5) it consists of the Mayor, the City Clerk, and aldermen elected from each of the 50 wards to serve four-year terms. The legislative powers of the City Council are granted by the state legislature and by the home rule provisions of the Illinois constitution. Within specified limits, the City Council has the general right to exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.

As established by resolution, the City Council is organized into sixteen standing committees. The jurisdiction, membership and appointment of chairman and vice-chairman are approved by the City Council. Subcommittees may be established for consideration of subject matter under the authority of the parent committee as determined by the chairman. Special committees may be created by the City Council upon resolution adopted by a 2/3 vote of the Aldermen. Committees meet on call of the chairman or upon request of a majority of the members.

At the beginning of each term, the City Council elects one of its members to serve as President Tempore to preside over Council meetings in the absence of the Mayor and adopts parliamentary rules and regulations governing its meetings. Also, in accordance Illinois law, the City Council elects a Vice-Mayor who serves as Interim Mayor in the event of a vacancy in the office of the Mayor or the inability of the Mayor to serve due to illness or injury.

The formal legal authorization for passing legislation is contained in the Illinois Revised Statutes, the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago, and the City Council’s Rules of Order and Procedure.