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Darlene Oliver Hightower Selected as President & CEO of Metropolitan Planning Council

Darlene O. Hightower

Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) Board of Governors is pleased to announce the selection of Darlene O. Hightower as President & CEO of MPC. As the first Black CEO to lead the Metropolitan Planning Council, Hightower brings more than two decades of experience leading civic organizations and initiatives to new heights. 

Hightower’s appointment concludes a rigorous, national search led by an MPC Board appointed Search Committee in collaboration with Koya Partners, an executive search firm that specializes in partnering with mission-driven clients.  

“As we look to the future, the Board is confident that Darlene is the right person to lead MPC,” said MPC Board Chair Melissa Washington. “She is a strategic, data-driven leader of high integrity, and possesses the visionary leadership to achieve a new level of impact for MPC. With a proven track record of building innovative programs to address systemic inequities in the Chicagoland region, Darlene has the perfect blend of skills and experience to honor MPC’s heritage while simultaneously transforming the organization to embrace its future potential for years to come.”

Hightower will join MPC from Rush University Medical Center, where she serves as Vice President of Community Health Equity. At Rush, Hightower oversees the implementation and evaluation of an array of community programs aimed at improving health and advancing equity. Additionally, Hightower has served as co-chair of the Racial Justice Action Committee, a systemwide initiative aimed at advancing social and racial justice at Rush. She also played a central role in building and leading West Side United, a cross-sector collaborative aimed at improving health and economic vitality on Chicago’s West Side and serves as a member of West Side United’s Executive Leadership Council. 

Prior to joining Rush, Hightower was Executive Director and National Vice President of Programs for Public Allies, Inc., a nonprofit leadership development organization dedicated to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating next-generation leaders. 

Hightower began her career as an attorney specializing in civil rights, employment law and financial regulation. In 2008, she was appointed as an Administrative Law Judge for the Chicago Department of Human Relations. 

“I am excited to join MPC, which has a long and illustrious history of positively impacting the Chicagoland region. The mission of the organization, which is to create a better, bolder, and more equitable future for everyone, allows me the opportunity to combine my personal passions and blend them with my professional experience and goals. I look forward to leading the next chapter of MPC’s essential work in collaboration with the board, stakeholders, and staff.”

Hightower has served as a Chicago Community Trust Leadership Fellow and a Civic Leadership Academy Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. She was named a Culture of Health Leader Fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a U.S. News & World Report 2020 Healthcare Hero based on her health equity work during the pandemic.  

Hightower graduated with high honors from Bradley University and received her juris doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

She will assume the role of President & CEO in January 2022.  

The Metropolitan Planning Council is a leader in regional planning in the Chicagoland area. Since 1934, MPC has been dedicated to shaping a better, bolder, more equitable region for all its residents. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions to advance equity and sound regional growth. Hightower will succeed MarySue Barrett who led MPC for 25 years and announced her decision to step down as President earlier this year. 


MPC Director of Marketing & Communications Angel Leveston

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