Rehwinkel was chosen as the recipient of the 2022 Rising Star Award.
Chasse Rehwinkel, MPP'15

Chasse Rehwinkel, MPP’15, was not long out of Gettysburg College when he began his first government job. In a Chicago alderman’s office, he answered residents’ requests for sidewalks and streetlights.

Just 10 years later, Rehwinkel is the Illinois State Banking Director. Confirmed by the Illinois Senate for a second term in March 2022, Rehwinkel oversees regulation of roughly 300 banks and trusts, 50 student loan servicers, 175 pawn brokers, and more than 20,000 non-bank mortgage lenders.

A self-proclaimed “public finance nerd,’’ Rehwinkel is the guy who likes to talk econ and policy at the pub. He is admired for his ability to rapidly turn solutions into concrete plans, to build consensus, and then to cross the finish line for implementation.

"And he does it with humor and grace and a constructive attitude,’’ said Illinois Comptroller Susanna A. Mendoza, a former boss. She calls Rehwinkel “one of the smartest people I ever hired.’’

Illinois Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza

“I could not hold onto him long as my Chief Economist before Gov. J.B. Pritzker poached him from me to make him a department head,’’ Mendoza said.

Of course, Mendoza had poached Rehwinkel herself, from State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who had poached him from State Representative Ann Williams – who had poached him from Chicago Alderman Michele Smith.

Rehwinkel is recipient of the 2022 Harris Rising Star Alumni Award, recognizing a fast-moving career with remarkable impact as well as his participation in the Harris Public Policy alumni community.

Rehwinkel came to Chicago in 2009 with his undergraduate degree in history and political science and a bit of experience writing for local papers around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For a year or so he was a general assignment reporter for the Windy City Times, Chicago’s LGBTQ newspaper, and a writer for

He joined Ald. Smith’s office as director of constituent services, charged with allocating the ward’s discretionary fund. The budget was just $1.32 million a year, used mostly for paving roads and fixing sidewalks. But its impact was deep.

Rehwinkel recalls going out to see a new streetlight neighbors had requested. “I remember thinking, ‘I did that. Their lives are just a little better because I worked on that.’ It was a cool thing.’’

That sense of gratification led him to Harris. “I wanted a stronger skill set on the hard econ side so I could do better program evaluation, and I wanted the ins and outs of public finance, like how to do bonding and different kinds of borrowing.’’

State Rep. Ann Williams

As a first-year Harris student, Rehwinkel took on a part time role for state Rep. Ann Williams. He started as an intern, Williams said, “but he was so eager and capable that we made a new role for him.’’ As legislative liaison, he took the lead on Williams’ Springfield agenda.

“Chasse embodies the best qualities of a colleague and a wonderful human being,’’ Williams said. “He’s driven not by ego but by doing the best job – always with people first.’’

Still today, she values his counsel and he considers her a mentor. They trade texts, from friendly topics to assessing complex legislation. “Late at night or early in the morning, Chasse always responds. I say, ‘Do you ever sleep?’’’

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Rehwinkel was between his first and second years at Harris when State Treasurer candidate Mike Frerichs, who is friendly with Williams, asked for Rehwinkel’s help shaping campaign policy. When Frerichs won, he offered Rehwinkel the post of Policy Director.

Rehwinkel took that full-time role while continuing as full-time student, “which I recommend to absolutely no one,’’ he says. “But this was exactly the kind of job I was trying to get by going to grad school.’’

Being somewhat over-subscribed forced a focus on what he most wanted from Harris. “A lot was the technical information on public finance, but I realized that I also really wanted to work in the equity space around finance.’’

He especially sought the ability to bring creative approaches to old-line state government problems, to apply takeaways from the private sector and non-profit organizations.

Among accomplishments in the Treasurer’s office, Rehwinkel led creation of the National ABLE Alliance, a coalition of state governments offering affordable savings programs for people with disabilities.

Rehwinkel rarely resists a challenge, and Illinois’ now-infamous two-year budget impasse was that with a capital C.  He joined the Comptroller’s office in 2016 as Mendoza and team were struggling to keep government running amidst a historic state budget impasse between then-Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly.

“That’s where the action was – bond deals, figuring out how to manage without a budget,’’ said Rehwinkel, who became Chief Economist and Director of the Bond Division, working on issues of state liquidity, debt issuance, and access to capital.

“We did one of the largest bond deals in many years to recoup on that, and it ended up paying out for us. It was a great project to work on,’’ Rehwinkel said, referring to a $6 billion General Obligation bond sale that cut the state’s unpaid bill backlog by $7.5 billion in a matter of weeks.

At the Comptroller’s office, he also led creation of Bank On Illinois, a program to create low- to no-fee banking accounts for vulnerable unbanked Illinoisans. Bank On had been successful in a few major cities, but Illinois’ was the first statewide program.

“He does not wear Dumbledore’s cape or pointed hat, but Chasse is an absolute wizard with numbers – and he does have the beard,’’ Mendoza said, referring to the signature look minted in Rehwinkel’s early college days. “I would not have been able to work nearly as many miracles in the Comptroller’s office without Chasse in my cabinet.’’

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker

Gov. Pritzker appointed Rehwinkel State Banking Director just before the pandemic took hold. More wizardry was required.

His team moved swiftly to alter regulations allowing Illinois banks to adjust loan terms in ways that would help struggling Illinoisans without being penalized by state examiners. Federal regulators followed Illinois’ written guidance to do the same.

After the federal government provided relief for public student loans, Rehwinkel’s team took the lead with other states to make the same thing happen for private student loans. That meant financial relief for more than 138,000 people in Illinois holding this type of student loan.

When the federal government distributed stimulus checks during the pandemic, Rehwinkel’s team persuaded most Illinois banks to cash those checks free of charge, especially significant to the estimated one-fifth of Illinois residents classified as “unbanked.’’

“This is one of the cooler things we’ve done,’’ Rehwinkel said. “These are the most vulnerable people and one big reason I wanted to work here, to help get more resources to this group of folks.’’

Overseeing a staff of about 100 and working across federal and state government agencies, legislative bodies, and financial institutions, Rehwinkel sees himself as a collaborative leader. That comes through in his frequent social media posts, often cheering on his team.

In a holiday message on Twitter, he wrote, “...Because of you the Division of Banking was able to act quickly, give immediate guidance to our institutions, provide avenues for borrowers to find relief, figure out how to continue our core responsibilities while maintaining safe social distancing…I am proud of our team…. Forever grateful, Chasse Rehwinkel.’’

About leadership, he says, “I very much like to build coalitions around a policy and consensus around decisions. That said, it’s not always possible to do that, so you have to be willing to act in a way that is as fair as possible.’’

Rehwinkel is one of four openly gay members of the Pritzker’s cabinet, making him a role model for the LGTBQ community. He doesn’t take that lightly.

“I think for me it creates a desire to represent myself as best as possible for my community,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t be here if not for strong LGBT role models like Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Rep. Greg Harris, and it makes me want to set a strong example.’’

Not that there’s a lot of free time when you’re Chasse Rehwinkel, but he likes “abstract strategy games’’ like cards or backgammon. He tries to play on the American Backgammon Tour as scheduling permits, and last year won a tournament at the Minnesota Viking Classic.

He finds time to mentor Harris students, too.

Rehwinkel says he left Harris with not only finance expertise and critical thinking skills but also with an invaluable network of alumni and professors ready to advise or connect him as he tackles unprecedented crises such as the budget impasse and the pandemic.

It’s why he stays involved the with Harris community, intent on doing his part in the network. “It’s a good pool to be in,’’ he said.