Michael R. Merchant was named Commissioner of the Department of Buildings by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on May 16, 2011.
A member of the Illinois Bar, Merchant had been serving under Mayor Richard M. Daley as Deputy Director in the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. He was responsible for advancing the Mayor’s City Council legislative agenda, which including passage of the city’s budget, as well as assisting the city council in resolving legislative, policy and city service issues.
This was his second stint in the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In between, he worked as a Director in the Chicago Public Schools Office of Intergovermental Affairs, where he lobbied on behalf of CPS concerning various matters related to local, State and Federal issues, including legislative, policy, and financial concerns. He also counseled the CEO and various departments concerning government issues and managed a department that included internal CPS employees and external contract lobbyists.
Merchant has a long history in public service and legal affairs. He worked as an Assistant Public Defender in the offices of the Cook County Public Defender as well as a contract attorney for the legal services firm Special Counsel.
He also worked in the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, where he investigated housing discrimination complaints based on the Fair Housing Act and analyzed data and prepared final claims determinations.
Merchant spent several years with the U.S. Peace Corps. He conducted speaking engagements for minority recruitment and spent time on a Basic Education Support Project in Namibia, Africa. As part of his responsibilities, he worked with government officials, educational leaders, international education development agencies, community leaders and community members to facilitate the workshops for teachers and principals to aid in the design of a national certification program.
His career started as a teacher at Columbus Merriville, an affiliate of Brenneman School, in the Chicago Public School System. He taught mathematics to students in a residential setting who were wards of the State of Illinois.
Merchant was admitted to the Illinois Bar in November, 2003 and holds a Juris Doctor from the Depaul University College of Law in Chicago and a Bachelor's of Science in General Science from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.