Joe Ferguson Named President of the Civic Federation

December 12, 2023

The Board of Directors of the Civic Federation has named Joseph Ferguson as its next president to lead the organization in championing the efficient delivery of high-quality government services for the Chicago region and the State of Illinois. Ferguson’s appointment as president follows a national search led by Koya Partners, the executive recruiting firm focused on mission-driven leadership. He succeeds long-time President Laurence Msall, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year.  

In its search for its next president, the Civic Federation sought strong, strategic leadership inspired by a genuine passion for fiscal accountability and government efficiency. It sought a proven relationship-builder with the experience and expertise to lead the 129-year-old organization into its next chapter with sincerity, integrity, honesty and credibility—someone who could invigorate the state and local government landscape by shining a spotlight on key fiscal challenges and opportunities for more efficient government. The search process was led by a 15-member search committee that reached out to 140 leaders and selected from a pool of more than 40 highly qualified candidates.

“Replacing a legendary figure like Laurence was a difficult task for all of us. As an organization, we set the bar very high with a very ambitious set of criteria and are thrilled to have Joe Ferguson as the next president of the Civic Federation,” said Donovan Pepper, chair of the Board of Directors of the Civic Federation. “Joe brings remarkable depth and breadth of experience to our team and has a tremendous passion for ensuring our local and State governments work effectively, efficiently and inclusively for all citizens. We look forward to having him lead the next chapter of our organization at such an important time for government and democracy at all levels.”

Ferguson is perhaps best known for his 12 years of service as Inspector General for the City of Chicago. Working across three mayoral administrations, Ferguson developed the Office of Inspector General (OIG) into a highly respected advocate for evidence-based accountability and collaborative problem solving in government. He led a team of approximately 100 legal, financial and data professionals to national acclaim for the OIG’s government performance audits and audit-based evaluations of an array of City agencies and programs, as well as innovations in government data transparency, procurement and police oversight and reform. His leadership and expertise has garnered appointments to and speaking engagements with national and local governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations.

“I am grateful for the honor and opportunity to lead the Civic Federation at such a critical moment for our city and our state,” said Joe Ferguson, incoming president of the Civic Federation. “With great challenges come opportunities for transformative change. I look forward to working collaboratively with the staff, the Board, our government officials and civic and community leaders to help our state and local governments steward the public’s resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. This work is imperative to make our region a model of equitable and sustainable 21st-century economic opportunity and public policy, program and practice.”

Ferguson’s first official day as the Civic Federation’s new president will be Tuesday, January 16th. 


Joseph Ferguson Bio

Joseph Ferguson served as inspector general for the City of Chicago from 2009 to 2021. He was first appointed by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and twice reappointed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Under his leadership, the Chicago Office of Inspector General doubled its staff from 50 to 100 employees and expanded the scope of its work, earning national acclaim for its government performance audits and audit-based evaluations, including its investigative reports on the City’s handling of the aftermath of the murder of Laquan McDonald, the raid of social worker Anjanette Young, the City’s red light camera system, the City’s handling of the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations and civil unrest, the Chicago Police Department’s gang database, and fire and emergency medical response times. Under Ferguson, the OIG created an online information portal that includes over 30 interactive data dashboards on police activities.

Prior to becoming inspector general, Ferguson spent 15 years with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. He was a chief of the office’s Money Laundering and Forfeiture Section and a deputy in the Complex Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, where he directed cases related to terrorism financing, government programs, health care and financial institution fraud, racketeering and public corruption. He represented the federal government before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Ferguson’s earlier work as a Civil Division attorney included affirmative civil fraud litigation under the False Claims Act, employment discrimination (Title VII), civil rights, and environmental law. His prior litigation work also included serving as counsel on environmental enforcement and death penalty matters brought before the United States Supreme Court.

Ferguson teaches at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and is a founding co-director and lecturer of the Loyola University of Chicago Law School’s National Security and Civil Rights program.  He was recently a Pritzker Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. In addition, he is a founder of (re)Chicago, a strategic initiative to assess and address flaws in the city’s governance structure. 

Ferguson received his B.A. from Lake Forest College, which recently named him an honorary Doctor of Laws, and his J.D. from Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law.