Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday that Michael R. Merchant is his nominee to become the next CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.
The board will meet later this month to consider the candidacy.
“Mike is the best type of public servant,” said Emanuel. “He is selfless and devoted, he is attentive to detail and ambitious in his thinking. I have been impressed with his leadership at the Department of Buildings and I look forward to working with him as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority. I believe Mike will do wonderful things in that role and will help many of Chicago’s families on their path to economic stability.”
Merchant, if confirmed by the board, would replace Charles Woodyard, who unexpectedly resigned Tuesday.
“The board is very pleased to consider the Mayor's nomination of Mike Merchant” said board chair Z Scott. “His record reflects management background, deep ties to Chicago’s community, and breadth of experience that will make him a valued leader as the organization moves forward in its implementation of Plan 2.0.”
Merchant, who is an attorney, had served as the commissioner of the department of buildings since the beginning of the Emanuel administration. Previously, he had served as Deputy Director in the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during the Daley administration. He has also worked as Director in the Chicago Public Schools Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, as an Assistant Public Defender in the offices of the Cook County Public Defender, as well as a contract attorney for the legal services firm Special Counsel.
“I look forward to the challenges of this new role,” said Commissioner Merchant. “I believe that we will be able to advance the mission of the Chicago Housing Authority and provide a better future for many of Chicago’s most vulnerable residents, and I look forward to working with the Mayor and the other leaders in the city to accomplish these goals.”
Merchant also worked in the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, where he investigated housing discrimination complaints based on the Fair Housing Act and analyzed data and prepared final claims determinations.
Merchant spent several years with the U.S. Peace Corps. He conducted speaking engagements for minority recruitment and spent time on a Basic Education Support Project in Namibia, Africa. His career started as a teacher at Columbus Maryville, an affiliate of Brenneman School, in the Chicago Public School System. He taught mathematics to students in a residential setting who were wards of the State of Illinois.
As commissioner of the Department of Buildings, Merchant had many accomplishments, including setting standards for e-permitting. Additionally, he aggressively attacked the city’s vacant building problem, always focusing first on returning vacant buildings to viable housing stock first, if possible.
As CEO of the CHA, Merchant’s initial and primary responsibility will be the implementation of the Plan for Transformation 2.0. The Plan is the ongoing effort by CHA to develop additional housing units and make maximum use of its available properties in a holistic fashion, with a focus on developing safe communities that provide educational and economic opportunities for families.