Outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot gives a farewell address at the Build Center on Monday May 8, 2023. | Todd A. Bannor

One week before her tenure as Chicago mayor officially came to an end, Lori Lightfoot said farewell in the neighborhood her successor, Brandon Johnson, calls home. 

Speaking to several dozen people, including elected officials, at BUILD Chicago’s headquarters, 5100 W. Harrison St., Lightfoot recalled some of the challenges and programs of her administration. 

“The mandate that I was given four years ago was to break the status quo that failed the residents for too long,” she said, on the verge of tears, as she highlighted programs and initiatives to address inequity in the city of Chicago.

“It’s been the honor of a lifetime and a privilege to work with you for the last four years,” Lightfoot said.  

Her voice breaking, Lightfoot said that the four-letter word propelling her through the challenges of her administration was “hope.” She called out the media, who she said called her the four-letter word “mean,” the mayor that no one could get along with. 

“I wrap myself up in resiliency, like the resiliency that I saw over and over again all across Chicago,” she said. 

Lightfoot’s words came up after a video revisiting her four-year tenure as the 56th mayor of the country’s third-largest city. 

The video highlighted some of Lightfoot’s early achievements, such as the passing the Fair Workweek Ordinance. The challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder were also remembered. 

Lightfoot said she still remembers the moment she learned of the first COVID-19 case in Chicago and thanked Commissioner of Public Health Allison Arwady for her “wisdom and guidance” to manage the unprecedented public health crisis and keep people safe. 

She said the pandemic tested her as had to “literally look death in the eye” and make decisions that she knew would impact who lived, who died, what businesses survived and which failed. 

“These challenges pushed me closer to my faith, and through it, I believe, made me a better leader,” Lightfoot said. “A battle-tested leader to be sure, but I also hope and believe they made me a better person.”

Lightfoot touted her administration’s work to “operationalize equity” through programs designed to address inequities experienced by Chicago’s Black and Latino communities caused by historic disinvestment. She said the pandemic made these inequities more evident, “flashing as neon signs.” 

Lightfoot highlighted her signature program Invest South/West.

“And as if there was any doubt, I will never stop telling the story of how we were able to marshal public, private and philanthropic dollars in the tune of $2.2 billion dollars in commitments to our South and West Side neighborhoods,” she said.

Austin business leader Malcolm Crawford, featured in the video, said Lightfoot truly worked with the community. 

Lightfoot also highlighted her administration’s “historic” investments in mental health, affordable housing and environmental justice. She thanked staff members, city employees, residents, business leaders and nonprofit leaders for working along with her. 

“The real story of this administration is better told through the people whose lives we changed,” Lightfoot said, adding she remains more optimistic than ever for the future of Chicago and trusts it will continue to move in the right lane for the next four years.

She recognized community members and Chicagoans for working together to improve their communities “through thick and thin,” urging attendees to continue to make Chicago the city “we all want to work and live in.” 

“We must continue to carry the baton forward,” she said. “To all of you, do continue serving our city and working towards equity, inclusion, safety, fairness and vibrancy in every neighborhood.”

“I will be here as private citizen Lightfoot, continually rooting for you and every resident of our city…,” she added. “My work is not done, I will roll up my sleeves in another form and fashion but continue on.”