CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM)– The changing of the guard has begun at Chicago City Hall.
Mayor Daley left his fifth-floor office for the last time late Friday afternoon, accompanied by his wife Maggie, his children and his grandchildren. He exited his fifth-floor office and took an express elevator to the lobby, where well-wishers cheered him. Daley was smiling but teary-eyed as he walked out for the final time as mayor, an office he has held for 22 years.
He took his wife’s arm to help Maggie, who used a walker, to navigate to the street. As photographers encircled the Daley family, the mayor shook a few last hands and stepped into his waiting limo; those who could not fit in rode right behind in a silver van.
As he rode off, Daley held his hand out the window and gave a thumbs-up sign.
Daley technically is mayor until Monday, when Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is sworn in as the city’s next top official. But Daley’s press office has not announced any appearances for him over the weekend.
Onlookers, including city employees, cheered the mayor and his wife. But they also became emotional at the departure.
“It’s incredibly emotional,” said Mayor’s Office of Special Events staffer Jennifer Kramer. “Certainly I’m sad for myself and I’m sad for Chicago. I’ve worked at City Hall for quite a while, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts Reports
Earlier Friday, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine sat down with Daley for a one-on-one interview. The exiting mayor was relaxed, unusually candid and seemed at peace with the decisions he made during his historic tenure, which began in 1989.
Daley reflected on the start of his political career and how some people wrote him off after the death of his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley.
“When you think of my dad dying, 35 years ago, and then for me to keep his legacy going and then Bill (Daley, the mayor’s brother), that is amazing,” Daley told Levine. “Everyone thought when my dad died I was gone.”
Daley added: “I’m here, I’m walking out.”
With a solid record during challenging times; unifying and beautifying the city; embracing environmental priorities; surviving a sea-change in the economy, he was personally untouched by scandal despite it involving some of his top appointees. People he would say only “disappointed him.”
He refuses to second-guess himself on appointments or decisions, the controversial parking meter deal, the Hired Truck scandal or even the infamous midnight raid that put Meigs Field out of business for good. It’s now an open green space.
“That lakefront belongs to us,” Daley said. “Most cities destroyed their lakefront (with) private property, high-rises, buildings all over. Enough about arrogance — it was smart.”
Another thing you won’t hear from him as he leaves office: the words good-bye.
“It seems like when I say goodbye I’m not gonna see you forever. I don’t like that word,” he said.
Press Secretary Jacquelyn Heard said she expects Daley to remain “Chicago’s biggest booster.” Although she said Daley is still weighing what to do next, she has no doubt it will have something to do with the city of Chicago.
“It’s in his DNA,” she said. “That will never leave.”