Chicago’s top public health official, who led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic, was let go by Mayor Brandon Johnson on Friday, city officials confirmed.

Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady had said she wanted to stay on under the job in the new mayor’s administration, though Johnson had indicated on the campaign trail that he would not retain her if elected.

The move came one day after the Chicago Board of Health voted to send a letter to Johnson recommending that Arwady remain in her post.

Arwady’s termination is part of a larger cabinet shakeup at City Hall that also saw the city’s chief of planning and development exit his role.

Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox told his staff in an email Friday that he’s leaving his job, a high-level leadership change at City Hall that comes as Johnson approaches 100 days in office and appears poised to decide how many of his predecessor Lori Lightfoot’s allies to retain.

Both Cox and Arwady were appointed by Lightfoot.

Arwady became a household name during the pandemic, providing regular updates on case numbers and restrictions, rolling out vaccination efforts and explaining how people could best protect themselves from infection. But she was criticized in some circles for being too hasty in loosening pandemic restrictions, especially in reopening public schools, and went against activists’ demands regarding environmental permitting and mental health services.

Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady gives an update on the schools and COVID-19 at City Hall in Chicago on Jan. 4, 2022.

In addition to her leadership on COVID-19, Arwady pushed to expand mental health services citywide and the “Family Connects” program providing in-home nursing visits for newborns, and was a driving force behind an executive order on environmental justice that Lightfoot issued at the end of her term. Arwady also worked to ensure equitable vaccine access for vulnerable Black and brown residents when the vaccine became available.

Prior to his election, Johnson was a Chicago Teachers Union organizer, and the CTU had serious clashes with Lightfoot and Arwady over the reopening of schools during the pandemic. The union forced several delays in the resumption of in-person classes and twice refused the city’s directives to return to classrooms.

Large pieces of Johnson’s progressive agenda — like reopening the mental health clinics — will run through the public health department. Selecting a successor who can work with federal officials on funding and the City Council on implementing new programs will be critical to Johnson’s success or failure as a mayor.

Arwady, a board-certified physician and pediatrician, came to the health department in 2015 as chief medical officer and was confirmed as commissioner in January 2020 — coincidentally the same month the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the United States. Previously she was with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where, among other work, she assisted in the international response to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. She holds degrees from Harvard, Columbia and Yale universities, according to the city health department’s website.

Lightfoot, in a late Friday text, called Arwady “a hero. We all owe a debt to her unflagging commitment to data, science and keeping us all safe through one of the worst pandemics that the world has ever seen.”

Arwady released a statement late Friday saying in part: “It has been the best chapter of my life (so far!) leading the CDPH team, especially through the COVID pandemic, when public health was needed more than ever.”

She added: “I have every confidence in the CDPH team. I applaud them for all that they have done and continue to do, and I was especially disappointed not to get a chance to say goodbye. Public health remains my passion. I am dedicated to continuing this work, even if I am not able to continue to serve the city I love as your commissioner.”

First Deputy Commissioner Fikirte Wagaw has been named acting commissioner, a city spokesman said.

Cox, the former director of planning and development for the city of Detroit, was an early appointee of Lightfoot to lead the city’s planning department, which oversees the city’s economic development efforts, planning and zoning functions.

A Department of Planning and Development spokesperson said Cox’s last day was still to be determined and a spokesperson for the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

While previous planning heads were locals steeped in big real estate deals, Cox’s strengths were in architecture, design and resident-centered developments. He served as mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, design director for the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and was a practicing architect in Florence, Italy.

When Cox was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters earlier this year, Johnson said he was “proud to have him on my team and look forward to working with him to build a better, stronger, safer Chicago.”

Maurice Cox, Chicago's commissioner of planning and development, stands on the rooftop garden on the Chicago City Hall in 2019.

Lightfoot praised Cox in a tweet Friday, saying his “indelible mark is left on every block in every neighborhood that hungered for investments and respect. Well done, Commissioner.”

Cox’s primary mandate was to shift the focus away from downtown and spearhead Lightfoot’s signature Invest South/West program, championing equity-centered investments in targeted South and West Side neighborhoods. Cox told the Tribune in 2019 he saw Chicago as having a heart (its booming downtown) and a soul (its motley collection of neighborhoods). Those neighborhoods would be his primary focus, though relatively early in his tenure, Cox was criticized by aldermen for a failure to communicate about neighborhood projects.

While Lightfoot and Cox claimed several Invest South/West victories, the city failed to meet its goal to have shovels in the ground on city-subsidized Invest South/West projects within 18 months, according to a Crain’s Chicago Business analysis last fall. A January Tribune analysis separately found $409 million of the $757 million in city-funded projects included as Invest South/West projects were already underway when Lightfoot took office, dedicated to standard building repairs or still in the conceptual phase. And despite promises that spending would be community-driven, the Illinois Answers Project also spoke to several community leaders who said Lightfoot’s administration was opaque about how winning projects were selected.

The COVID-19 pandemic also upended downtown’s sunny prospects, with fewer workers coming into the office and relocators opting for newer buildings in the West Loop.

Cox’s successor will be charged with managing the next steps for the megadevelopments at Lincoln Yards, the Bronzeville Lakefront, and the 78; efforts to accommodate the Chicago Bears and potentially transform Soldier Field and the surrounding Museum Campus in the event that they leave; the potential construction of the Bally’s casino at the current site of the Tribune’s printing plant; and the future of Invest South/West.