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Chatham Resident Tapped to Head City Buildings Department

By Wendell Hutson | December 19, 2013 8:45am
 Felicia Davis was recently appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as interim commissioner of the Buildings Department.
Felicia Davis was recently appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as interim commissioner of the Buildings Department.
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Brian Jackson

CHATHAM — Taking on tough assignments is nothing new for Felicia Davis, a former Chicago police officer who Mayor Rahm Emanuel nominated last week as commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

Until the City Council approves her nomination, Davis will serve as the interim commissioner. If confirmed, she would replace attorney Michael Merchant, who Emanuel appointed as the new CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.

And the Chatham resident who said she's always up for a challenge said modernizing the department's technology is among her goals.

"The Department of Buildings does more than issue permits but also serves as a public safety net for the city," said Davis, 44. "One of the most important things is to enforce the city’s building codes and identify crime taking place inside vacant buildings."

Davis said the buildings department also plays a hand in improving neighborhoods too.

"The Department of Buildings plays a vital role in public safety and neighborhood protection, and it also has a responsibility to help review plans and issue permits efficiently to allow new developments to revitalize neighborhoods, create new jobs and expand economic activity,” said Davis.

The department has an annual budget of $32 million and 285 employees. Davis said she is used to managing large budgets and did so during her tenure as vice president of administration for Kendall College in Chicago.

As a former detective in the Violent Crimes section she led a search team that recommended the mayor hire Garry McCarthy as police superintendent.

Prior to her current post she was the executive director of the city's Office of Public Engagement. In this role she served largely as a liaison between the mayor's office, community organizations and the city's many sister agencies, such as the CHA.

"I would describe it best as a community affairs position that allowed me to interact directly with community leaders and build relationships between them and city government," Davis said.

When Emanuel was elected in 2011, Davis served on his transition team and then as Emanuel's deputy chief of staff.

In that role, her days began at 5 a.m. and included informing the mayor first thing in the morning about any children shot the night before, she said. And if so, she would arrange for the mayor to call the family to offer the city's condolences.

While side-stepping questions about any political ambitions Davis said, "I am happy to serve in any position where the mayor thinks I might be useful."