County Connections: The Life of a County Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk, District 4
Sep 07, 2019 07:33AM
From Cook County Sheriff’s Office in collaboration with the Cook County Attorney’s Office - September 7, 2019
Commissioners are responsible for understanding the needs of the county and supporting staff in providing community services, such as public health, human services, public safety and transportation. Carrying out these responsibilities requires attention 24/7/365. Commissioners attend all meetings of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, and we serve on a variety of community, county and other agency committees.
We are publicly available and regularly receive phone calls, emails and one-on-one questions, irrespective of our location, on a variety of county topics. Public engagement in all these forms is key to our success as county commissioners because it is through interactions with the public that commissioners have an opportunity to educate – and to learn from – our constituents.
Service on Boards and Commissions
Serving on committees gives us better insight to do our jobs and to respond to citizens. I find that I am often able to connect the dots and make better decisions, especially the tough ones, as a direct result of this form of public engagement. I also have the opportunity to build relationships and connect with community members in more meaningful and personal ways. Representing Cook County on boards and commissions that meet across the state gives Cook County a voice when the alternative would be for decision-makers to make calls on regulations and funding without considering the impact to our county’s citizens.
Commissioners receive committee assignments at our first meeting of the year, often called our organizational meeting. Some we are appointed to, some we are a voting member, and others we may sit as ex officio. The selection of committee work is based on the availability of the commissioner, personal interest and district impact, with the goal of ensuring that all meetings are covered. For example, I sit on the Airport Commission and the Scenic Byway Committee. Both are important to me and impact my district. This year, I asked Commissioner Mills to take my place at the hospital board meetings. I miss those meetings and the wealth of information I gained, but I felt that it was important for Commissioner Mills to have the opportunity to better understand hospital operations.
As many of you know, I struggle with the public comment period at the beginning of county board meetings. I find it frustrating and difficult to sit quietly when someone is simply looking for an answer to a question. That is why I enjoy other opportunities to speak directly to people, including the public meetings, public information sessions and town hall meetings that we have implemented in recent years.
I know that we have had meetings where individuals left without getting answers to their questions, oftentimes because they did not feel comfortable in that setting. My hope is that we can continue to improve the respectful environment during all meetings so that everyone is comfortable being there and asking questions on a regular basis when they can. It is in the best interest of both the citizens and the commissioners to have a welcoming environment at our meetings. After all, public engagement in all its forms helps us learn from our constituents, better understand the needs of the county, and support our staff in providing the services vital to our community.
Please keep those comments and questions coming.
County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.