A University of Chicago administrator and former Obama presidential adviser was named Monday to lead the Civic Committee and Commercial Club of Chicago.
Derek Douglas, 51, will become the first African American to serve as president of one of the city’s oldest and most influential civic groups, whose members include many of Chicago’s top business leaders. He will take the helm Aug. 1, replacing Kelly Welsh, the former general counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce, who is stepping down from his leadership role after five years.
“The organizations have a tremendous history of addressing critical issues facing the Chicago region from transportation and infrastructure, education, fiscal policy, public safety, and economic development, including driving inclusive expansion of Chicago’s tech economy,” Douglas said in a news release. “I am eager to continue this important work in my new role.”
Founded in 1877, the Commercial Club is best known for commissioning the 1909 Plan of Chicago, the “make no little plans” vision of architect Daniel Burnham, which shaped the development of the city, its parks system and its open lakefront for more than a century. The Civic Committee was created in 1983, spearheading such initiatives as education reform and the modernization of O’Hare International Airport.
During his 10 years at the University of Chicago, Douglas led a number of departments, and most recently was vice president for civic engagement and external affairs. Previously, he served as a special assistant to President Barack Obama as director of the Urban Policy Office from 2009 to 2012. Douglas graduated from the University of Michigan and Yale Law School.
Welsh, who has led the Civic Committee and Commercial Club since April 2017, also has ties to the Obama Administration. He was nominated by Obama as general counsel for the Commerce Department in October 2013. On Monday, the former president praised Welsh for his leadership at the Civic Committee and Commercial Club, citing his “steadfast support of our work to make the Obama Presidential Center a community hub for the South Side.”