Few players in Chicago’s transportation planning and advocacy scene have as impressive a resume and as deep an institutional memory as Jacky Grimshaw, the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s vice president for government affairs. She’s been with CNT since 1992, including creating and leading the nonprofit’s transportation and air quality programs for over a decade, and spearheading its Transit Future campaign for a new revenue stream for regional transit at the Cook County level.
Grimshaw has also served on the boards of the Chicago Transit Authority and the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board’senvironmental justice and public involvement committees. She recently completed terms on the women’s issues in transportation committee.
Before joining CNT, Grimshaw was a researcher in hematology and gastroenterology. She has also worked in both state and federal government, for the Chicago Public School district, and as a political advisor to Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor.
I recently sat down with Grimshaw at her home in Hyde Park to discuss her unorthodox career path, what she learned from working for Washington, her efforts to promote equitable transit-oriented development, why the Transit Future campaign is currently stalled, what she’d like to see from the next Chicago mayor, and more.
James Porter: You formerly worked as a researcher studying matters related to blood and disorders of the stomach and intestines. What made you switch careers and become involved in transportation planning and advocacy?
Jacky Grimshaw: Serendipity. I left hematology research because the guy I was working for and I had a disagreement because my great-grandmother died while my husband and I were on vacation, and there was an airline disruption. We couldn’t get back from Miami Beach on time. We had to do a variety of transportation modes to get back from Miami Beach. So I was late getting back from my vacation, and [the guy I was working for] thought I was disrupting his research schedule. I was very stressed from my grandmother dying and the trouble getting back, so I said “Don’t need your job” and I walked out. [Laughs.] I think I left in the early seventies, I don’t remember exactly…
JP: That seems like an abrupt switch…