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Laurence Msall

Sunday, Feb 5, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Civic Federation

The members and staff of the Civic Federation are heartbroken to share the news of the death of our president, Laurence Msall. He passed away surrounded by family on Saturday, February 4, following complications from surgery. Our members and staff are supporting each other through this unexpected loss and taking comfort in the memories of our extraordinary leader and dear friend, who served as president of the Civic Federation for 21 years.

Laurence’s contributions to the Civic Federation were immeasurable and his sudden passing comes as a devastating blow to members of the Civic Federation family. While Laurence was the Civic Federation to so many in the community, his real legacy was in helping to make the Civic Federation the indispensable voice for fiscal responsibility throughout the state of Illinois and that mission will go on through the outstanding staff that Laurence developed.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7 at Salerno’s Galewood Chapel, 1857 North Harlem Ave., Chicago. Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 8 at St. Giles Church, 1045 Columbian Ave., Oak Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Laurence’s memory to L’Arche Chicago, an organization that provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For more about Laurence’s remarkable life, click here.

* Crain’s

News of his unexpected death numbed business and civic leaders he dealt with during a career that straddled public and private sectors.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot called Msall “a fierce defender of good policy for both the city and the rest of our state” who “loved Chicago dearly.”

“Because of his several decades of experience in government, politics and civic groups, he became one of Chicago’s great civic leaders,” the mayor said in a statement released on Twitter. “Above all else, he was a kind, generous and empathetic man who was always willing to roll up his sleeves to help. Laurence’s contributions to the betterment of our city cannot be measured. He always asked how he could help and provided me with his unvarnished and helpful counsel.” […]

Paula Wolff, director of policy and planning in Gov. Jim Thompson’s administration, credits Msall as a deciding factor in adoption of the two-tier pension system for state employees, allowing some relief from burdensome pension costs otherwise protected by the state constitution. “I don’t think we would have had the kind of reforms, although they’re not perfect, over the last 8-to-10 years without him,” she said.

* Sun-Times

Msall joined the Civic Federation in 2002 after serving as an adviser on economic development for former Gov. George Ryan, where he was responsible for the oversight of 11 state agencies, including the departments of Commerce and Community Affairs, Revenue and Transportation, according to his biography on the Civic Federation’s website.

He also previously served as an assistant to the director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, where he helped develop policy.

Msall also worked with the nonprofit Commercial Club of Chicago in various roles, including as vice president, working alongside Chicago’s business and political leaders on a range of financial issues facing the city.

He was frequently quoted by reporters at Chicago’s major publications for his keen analysis of government finances.

Most of the following statements were posted on Twitter. Notice how the condolences come from such varied sources.

* Gov JB Pritzker

MK and I are saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Laurence Msall. As President of the Civic Federation, Laurence played a key role advancing the fiscal discourse in Illinois. He served our state proudly under Governors Ryan and Thompson and will be remembered for his advocacy in confronting complex policy challenges.

MK and I send our deepest condolences to Laurence’s family and friends during this difficult time, and we want to recognize his many years of dedication and service to the best interests of the people of Illinois.

* Senate President Don Harmon

Laurence Msall was an intellectual giant of steadfast character and consistency. Someone who dedicated his life to improving the city and the state he cared so much about. I’ve known Laurence since grade school.

He was a friend, mentor and sounding board for many issues and decisions. I will always remember his voice, vision and unparalleled integrity. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

* House Speaker Chris Welch

Our state has lost a giant. Laurence Msall was a truth teller who only wanted to help make things better for us all in the State of Illinois. I always enjoyed his guidance and counsel. May his memory be a blessing.

* Attorney General Kwame Raoul

Just as important as the details of Laurence Msall’s fiscal policy proposals was the way in which he offered them. He was a gentleman and a model for how to approach public discourse with civility. We should learn from how he lived his professional life.

* Comptroller Susana Mendoza…

I am heartbroken to hear of the sudden passing of Laurence Msall, a crucial voice advocating for honest budgeting. Laurence was such an important bridge between the business community and government, holding the city, state, county and other units of government accountable by analyzing their budgets. I was honored whenever he asked me to address the board of the Civic Federation about state finance. He knew it was important for the state’s business leaders to hear the government perspective too. Even if I disagreed with some of his or his board’s policy positions, he was so professional in debating the pros and cons of budget options. Most importantly, I considered him a friend. His passing leaves a void that will not easily be filled. Laurence was a giant in Illinois for his knowledge of finances. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children. He leaves behind a family he adored and a state that is forever grateful for his indelible contributions. May he rest in God’s peace and eternal glory.

* Rep. Kam Buckner

Devastated to hear about the passing of Laurence Msall. Laurence was my friend as he was to so many Chicagoans. He was a treasure and a principled, dedicated fighter for what’s right. I’ll miss being able to call him to help me wade through tough fiscal issues…

* Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Mark Denzler

Illinois lost a true advocate & champion today with the passing of noted budget and fiscal expert Laurence Msall. In addition to leading the @CivicFederation , Laurence was a great partner of the @IMA_Today and more importantly a good friend.

* Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates

Sending my deepest sympathies to the Msall family. May his memory be a blessing to all that loved him.

* Paul Vallas

Deeply saddened by the passing of Laurence Msall, President of the Civic Federation. He was dedicated to Chicago and a tireless advocate of good public policy and finances for our City and State. His expertise & wisdom will be deeply missed. RIP

* Ald. Daniel La Spata

Integrity and intelligence are rare in public policy: Laurence possessed both. Saddened by his tragic loss and my thoughts and prayers are with all who grieve him.

* Chicago GOP

We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Laurence Msall, President of Chicago’s Civic Federation. Msall was a tireless reformer & watchdog for the public interest in often dry areas of govt spending & public finance. He made it his life to serve public interest. RIP

* Illinois Environmental Council’s Jen Walling

We’ve lost a giant in Laurence Msall of the @CivicFederation ’s passing. It was a blessing to share thoughts on government with him before the inauguration earlier this month. Rest in peace.

* The Bond Buyer’s Yvette Shields

Still digesting news that began spreading this morning that we’ve lost our civic north compass Laurence Msall … before all the well-deserved accolades pour in and ruminating on his legacy and all he meant to holding city & state in check financially and my reporting…

ALWAYS took the time to return a call… ALWAYS had something insightful to share…ALWAYS giving credit to his staff’s hard work….fair and never personal in criticism & praise came when deserved….he made the Civic Federation into a behemoth of a resource it is today…cheers

* Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton

I am saddened to learn of Laurence Msall’s passing. He loved Illinois and wanted nothing but the best for our state and its fiscal health.

I was honored to know him and always appreciated his thoughtfulness and guidance. May his family and loved ones be comforted as they grieve.

* Sen. Elgie Sims

I am saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Laurence Msall, President of the @CivicFederation. He was someone I respected and enjoyed talking with about various matters. His knowledge, talent and skill will be sorely missed.

* And…

I’ll open comments on Monday.

…Adding… Comments are now open.

…Adding… Jack Lavin, President and CEO, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

“On behalf of the Chamber and its members, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague and partner Laurence Msall. An extraordinary business and civic leader, Laurence was a true advocate and champion for our great city. He dedicated his life’s work to Chicago and Illinois, and we are all the better for his leadership. The city has lost a pillar of the civic community, and we have all lost a dear friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

* Senate GOP Leader John Curran…

I first met Laurence Msall while I was serving on the DuPage County Board when he presented the Civic Federation’s review of the county’s annual budget. I have long-since admired his non-partisan approach and dedication to transparent, responsible and future-focused budgeting for all levels of government. His sense of duty to Illinois was unmatched and he performed his difficult work with grace, wisdom, and integrity. I will be remembering Laurence and his gifts to our state today and sending prayers to his family, colleagues and many friends


  1. - JS Mill - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 8:28 am:

    I am saddened to hear of Msall’s untimely passing. He was a passionate advocate on fiscal issues and brought a lot to the debates. Rest in Peace.

  2. - Soccermom - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 8:30 am:

    All I have to say is a bunch of banned words. I am flooded with memories of Laurence. Still can’t believe it.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 8:37 am:

    Laurence Msall was exactly what good governing is

    Msall was driven by policy, shaped compromise by being thoughtful to a greater thought, and was never a permanent enemy, as his permanent interest was a better understanding of monies, budgets, and possible fixes

    Godspeed, sir

  4. - Soccermom - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 8:53 am:

    If anybody wants to make a donation in Laurence’s memory, the family has asked for contributions to L’Arche Chicago

  5. - levivotedforjudy - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 9:21 am:

    I dropped my phone when it popped up. I have worked and debated and laughed with Laurence for 30 years. He is/was such a well-respected fixture in Illinois public policy. I wish we had a lot more people like him. RIP my friend.

  6. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 10:01 am:

    RIP. Mr. Msall was a reasonable person even when not agreeing. Recalling that he wanted the state to have a budget during the former governor’s sabotage, when two years into it he was asked will or should the state pass a budget.

  7. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Feb 6, 23 @ 10:43 am:

    I’m heartbroken over the sudden loss of Laurence. He was a friend and colleague for decades. A mentor to many and just an all around great guy. I can’t believe Laurence will no longer be the constant in our civic life. May his memory be for a blessing.

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