CHICAGO (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn has tapped former mayoral candidate Gery Chico to head up the Illinois State Board of Education.

Quinn announced Chico’s new post as board chairman at his Thompson Center office Tuesday morning.

Chico placed a distant second to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the election this past February.

Before his mayoral run, Chico had been president of the Chicago City Colleges, and had served as president of the Chicago School Board under retired Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Chico was appointed in 1995, when Chicago schools were labeled the worst in the nation and Mayor Daley received state authorization to assume direct control of the Chicago Public Schools system.

Working with schools chief executive officer Paul Vallas, the two built dozens of new schools, renovated hundreds of others, closed a budget deficit and increased test scores.

It was that experience that caught Quinn’s eye, as Chico will be tasked with education in Illinois at a time when school funding faces cuts due to the state’s budget woes.

Chico will succeed Jesse Ruiz, who is leaving the state board for the Chicago Board of Education.

In the mayoral race, Chico was the only candidate other than Emanuel who ran TV ads for his campaign, and he also won the backing of powerful Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and several major labor unions, including the Firefighters’ Union and the Fraternal Order of Police.

But Chico’s hopes to force a runoff against Emanuel were dashed, as he only won about 24 percent of the vote, compared with 55 percent for Emanuel.