Mayor Richard M. Daley's last day in office marks the end of 22 years and, as it's been said so many times recently, the end of an era for Chicago.
The mayor reports to work one final time Friday at City Hall, where light-pole banners thanking Daley for his service hang outside and where hundreds turned out this week for an open house to say goodbye.
Through city hall changes, privatization controversy and a quest to globalize the Windy City, Daley told NBC Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern this week that from start to finish he has "no regrets." Not about the parking meters, or the creation of Millennium Park or even Chicago's Olympic bid.
Daley has no plans to continue in public office. Instead he says he'll embark on a speaking tour, spend more time with his family and maybe write a book or teach a class.
It's been a long road for Daley, following Harold Washington and ultimately his father, Richard J. Daley, to City Hall.
Back when Daley made his inauguration address on April 24, 1989, he urged his constituents to leave behind old city setbacks and band together to look to the future. He, for one, was ready.
"As we approach a crossroads in the history of our great city, I, too, am honored with your confidence, and determined to justify it in the years to come."
Daley held the top seat for six terms before announcing in September he would not run again for office.
"The truth is I have been thinking about this for the past several months," he said at a City Hall news conference with his wife, Maggie, by his side. "In the end this is a personal decision, no more, no less."
Some suspected the mayor's decision was swayed by his wife's ongoing battle with cancer. Others wondered if strong mayoral competition in the upcoming election was reason enough. In the end, Daley just said, "it's time."
"I've done my all. I've done my best. Now, I'm ready with my family to begin the new phase of our lives."
After that, the city was up for grabs. One of Chicago's first mayoral elections in years without a Daley was won by President Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel will be sworn in Monday at Pritzker Pavilion.
It's the first changing of the guard since 1989, when Daley succeeded Harold Washington.
"Harold Washington was a tough act to follow," Daley said in 1989. "He gave a sense of belonging to many who felt disenfranchised by their own government. And whatever your politics, you had to appreciate his strength, leadership and commitment to our city. Those same words--strength, leadership and commitment--were also used to describe another mayor, who meant even more to me than he did to Chicago."
Daley begins his last day by continuing his Neighborhood Appreciation Tour in Morgan Park. He and Maggie Daley later will join Chicago Bears players to celebrate youth programs at The Ogden Mega Park on South Racine Avenue.
At 5 p.m., he departs City Hall for the last time as mayor of Chicago.