Lisa Schrader is the rarest of breeds in Chicago government. As best as anyone can tell, the Ohio native applied to then Mayor Richard M. Daley's office after college, cold.
That is, she wasn't referred to the job by a politically connected friend or family member. Yet, astoundingly, she got the job.
If getting a City Hall job without political clout were not impressive enough, Schrader went on to rise through the ranks.She served as a spokesman for Mayor Daley.
She became the city's chief operating officer, and twice served as chief of staff for Daley. When Daley protege Emanuel took over in 2011, he asked Schrader to stay with the city.
Then, he asked her to be his own chief of staff. Her rise and constant presence at the highest level of Chicago government and politics was made all the more impressive by the fact that she also survived several of the city's bigger scandals to do so.
Many times over, Schrader had to be the public face, by virtue of being a spokesman or being a chief, of some of our worst recent moments. The hired truck scandal reform was one she oversaw and was accountable for.
That scandal ended others' careers, but not Schrader's. Schrader was also tasked with spinning the city's secretive parking meter lease deal, which turned out to be a horrid one for taxpayers because it sold the assets way short and took away public oversight into meter management.
Schrader was also in charge when Emanuel closed 50 public schools in ways that didn't include much meaningful public input and for reasons that changed frequently and involved fuzzy math. She also had to deal with blow back from red light camera scandals, and led an expensive internal investigation into city comptroller Amer Ahmad, who was convicted of fraud committed while he was Ohio's deputy.
Under Schrader's direction, Chicago paid nearly $900,000 to a law firm and accounting firm for a 47-page report that concluded Ahmad didn't defraud Chicago the same way he did Ohio.
Schrader survived all this, and this week announced that she's leaving city government and resigning from her post as Emanuel's chief of staff. All reports indicate that she's leaving on her own accord, and not being forced out.
Schrader will pursue as yet unnamed opportunities in the private sector. She'll likely do well for herself, and the mayor will have to find a new person to help him lead Chicago.
Much of the speculation thus far on Schrader's replacement is another former mayor Daley chief of staff, Forrest Claypool. Claypool is a former campaign media strategist for his first presidential campaign, along with Claypool's partner David Axlerod.
Claypool ran and lost for County Assessor in 2010, as an independent. He has served as a Cook County Commissioner, and head of the Chicago Park District.
He currently heads up the Chicago Transit Authority. Claypool styles himself as a progressive-minded independent, but has always worked for the most powerful establishment officials out of Chicago, including Daley, Emanuel and Obama.
That paradox may make him an excellent fit for Emanuel as chief of staff. Claypool knows city government, is loyal, but has a reputation, earned or not, as a progressive and good-government type.
It is unknown whether Emanuel will re-tool his entire cabinet as he heads into his second term, but someone like Claypool, who is popular among many liberal voters but knows who butters his bread, could provide a balance of good public relations and back room dealing savvy.
If that happens, one of Chicago's most resilient pols may well be replaced with another mainstay.