Toni Preckwinkle (Vote Her In, Episode 369)
You're listening to vote her in the club. Ration- between two broads talking politics and author Rebecca. Save our guest today is toni. Preckwinkle president of the Cook County Illinois Board of Commissioners. Hi everyone this is Kelly and you're listening to vote her in a collaboration between two broads talking politics and author Rebecca Saive and we are joined today by a very special guest. So I'M GONNA turn it over to Rebecca to introduce our guest Rebecca. Hi Kelly and we're coming to you today in the midst of this new life we're all experiencing but we thought it was important as everyone is to just forge ahead do everything we can to be supportive of the women who are listening to this. Podcast all of us out there trying to be helpful to our surroundings in our neighborhood. So we're just really thrilled to have us our guest today to share some ideas with you and thoughts. Toni preckwinkle who's President of Cook County Board of Commissioners for those of you who may not know Cook County include city of Chicago population is over five nine after? La County is the second largest in the state so Actually is country. Yes I'm sorry. She's the chief executive officer and say those of you who are fans of voter in you know we're paying always special attention here to the role of women in Executive Office so she runs the government. That's larger than as I learned at twenty states. She obviously has a deep perspective. Having served several terms and she will be sharing with us today. Her not only things to think about those of you who are thinking about running for office in office helping other women runs but also on what we can do Generally to keep our communities and families secure and safe. I wanted to just before I ask the first question just on a personal note. Say That I've known President preckwinkle Tony as we are going to call her this interview for. I don't know more decades than I probably care to admit to but not really because she has just been a guiding light in a great role model for all these years so with that we thought we would start by Asking County. Sheriff wonderful for story About her own teenage experience getting started in campaigns and in the civil rights movement and how that motivated her in her life of public service. So Tony Welcome. And let's just dive right in. No thank you Rebecca for that kind introduction. Thank you Kelly. You know I was a teenager very interested in current events and global affairs and I was invited by my High School Social Studies teacher Richard Harmon to work in the campaign of Katie Maguire. Who was the first African American woman to run for City Council in Saint Paul Minnesota where I grew up? So we We talked to family and friends and got people to put out yard signs and made phone calls on her bath and You know stuff envelopes all the things you campaign. I really enjoyed it and Believed in Katie Maguire. Of course she's a win. The election and that was a disappointment to me when I came to Chicago. I decided that I continue to work in political campaigns and that was in the nineteen sixties. There were lots of opportunities in my neighborhood and I've been working in campaign so since ever ever since I was sixteen That's a long time ago. And one of the things that struck me was your point about Working on a campaign and not losing faith because your candidate lost. Well you know I thought she was a great lady and she didn't win the election and I didn't think any less of course for having lost the election and when I came to Chicago I went to the University of Chicago and and in Hyde Park. There was an organization called Independent Voters of Illinois which supported progressive candidates of whatever party and I got involved in I the I and worked in my neighborhood for for decades before I got elected to office myself and I think that was really instructive. I got to meet a lot of good people who were candidates and a lot of good people who are campaign workers and you know appreciate it. Of course the good work. That's done by by staff so I always say that that The the decades that I spent working for other good people good preparation for holding office myself. That's excellent as Rebecca noted at the top. You know we've been particularly interested in this podcast looking at women who hold executive a governmental office and there's lots of women being elected at two positions in Congress and state legislatures but not as many yet in executive roles. So you know especially in this moment In a moment of crisis what. What's your approach to thinking about leadership and the decision making role that you're in. Are there lessons that you're learning that we can all take from this moment? I served as all or the fourth ward for nineteen years and in the city of Chicago. Aldermen are sort of mayors of small towns. You have about fifty to sixty thousand constituents folks turn to you when they want to get their son or daughter into a good school when they're looking for employment when they're looking for housing when the mail doesn't get delivered on time You're you're the sort of first point of contact with government for all the people that you serve in your war and managing those disparate concerns that people brought to you and the different constituencies that you have throughout your ward neighborhood by neighborhood You know I think are good preparation for the kind of leadership position. I was able to assume in two thousand ten you know. My Ward was was very diverse Included University of Chicago Community Hyde Park North Kenwood South Kenwood and then North Kenwood Oakland Douglas Grand Boulevard communities that struggled for decades with this investment and gang activity and fires demolition and Managing to serve those very different constituencies. I think was good preparation for serving the diversity. That's Cook County and also the lesson you learnt as Alderman is that you've you've got to reach out as much as possible to the various groups that you represent your your Your ability to to be a good leader is clearly impacted by the breadth of advice that you get and seek so I made it a point to try to touch as many bases as possible an important decisions to make as Alderman and that surely true in this present job as well as you think about it in the press and job where you're responsible for a huge healthcare system and the criminal justice system in Cook County. How do you think about those decisions? And approaching them and again is Kelly pointed out in particular circumstance for in now. I'm blessed to have agreed Steph. First of all my chief of Staff Llaneta Hanes. Turner has served in County Government for quite some time she. She started out as head of our justice. Advisory Council being in charge of our criminal justice reform initiatives. She was deputy chief of staff and then and then chief of staff And you know you can't do these jobs without really good people around you and so your first priority has to be to assemble a really good team and in this crisis that you know. I've been blessed with a really good team. And that's been that's been indispensable to the good work that's been done so I would say the building. A good team is the first priority and then giving people a chance to to do their do their jobs and not micromanage or second guessing them Is Important as well so you could put good people in place and then let them do their jobs. And I I as I said I've been. I've been blessed to have such a good team and in these times in times of crisis Having a good team is just critical. It's always important but in times of crisis it's just critical and one other quick question on this front. I'm Tony can you share with us Is there any way in which you In addition to the having a good team and letting them do their job and all of that. Is there any change in in your role that these women who are running for office? Perhaps I should be thinking about in your messaging and how you relate to people or is it just that much more intense than usual. Well I think one of the challenges we have at the moment. Is that the president of the United States is not conveying a consistent message to people about where we are in this in this pandemic nor is he being honest about the challenges we face and frankly the federal government has not done the work that we expect the government to be prepared for this kind of emergency and that's most evident in the shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators and test kits. So we've got some challenges both in the fact that the government wasn't prepared for the pandemic and that we've got a leader in place who is not. I think been honest with the American people as I said about the depth of the challenge. We face more what's GONNA be required of us to get through this. You know I I'm distressed. That he's presently talking about lifting shelter in place Orders April seventh. I think something like that before Easter but here in Illinois the projections are that the epidemic won't peak until the end of April so the shelter in place order needs to extend clearly until the end of April and beyond that as we're on the downside of the bell curve of of infection. But you know this is. We'll get through this you know. I remind people. This is the city that was built out of the ashes of a great fire at the end of the nineteenth century that survived the depression and the war in the middle of the twentieth century. And we'll survive this in the twenty first century but we need to be honest with people about the very difficult situation that we face that the the requirement for them to curtail their activities and to to shelter in place and how that will dramatically reduce the number of people who are infected And we've got we've gotTA talk honestly with people we're basically in a position where we are being asked honestly to to make economic sacrifices in the name of saving lives and I think if you put it that way to people it's understandable. There's going to be a lot of economic dislocation but it will save lives and you know those are the lives of our our parents and our grandparents and our aunts and uncles basically that the generation fifty and over it's also younger people who have a vulnerability as a result of chronic illnesses. But we're we're trading economic dislocation for saving lives and we have to be honest about the really good way to put it. Kelly. I know you've been home with your kids for a while now. And they're thinking about yourself as a mom and of course only the mom to. Yeah yes Tony. I know you're a moment. I know you're a grandma's well eventually seen you out with your grandchildren at a couple of museums in the past few years. Not recently so i. I'm certainly thinking a lot about You know Helping our children and our families through this and I know that you are as well. Are there things that you recommend For for families who are thinking about getting through this things that they you're doing That that we think are going to be resonant with constituents right now I think first of all people are allowed to go out as long as they maintain social distance. And you know going out walking You know it seems to me getting get some exercise not just Staying in your. If you're if you're able bodied not just saying in your in your apartment or your home. I think is a really good thing. The Sunshine is wonderful and it's a sunny day. So that's that's a good thing you know. I think I think parents need to be honest with their children about again. You know this is a situation where we're doing things to to protect. Ourselves and protect other people are family and friends and neighbors. That's why we're doing this because we don't want we're trying to reduce the number of people who get sick and this is. This is going to be a hard time for a lot of our families even with the federal intervention and additional resources is going to be a hard time. I think children. I think respond to honesty. And you just you gotTa tell them honestly. This is where we are. This is what's happening. This is why we're doing this. We're trying to do this. So that fewer people get sick and you know for children who are much less likely to be impacted negatively then than adults particularly older adults. It's it's important to share with them that the sacrifices they're making benefit you know their their parents their grandparents. You know the Nice lady who lives across the hall you know. I've seen some wonderful things on facebook and elsewhere about kids visiting through the windows of the nursing home where their mom lives and things like that. Any thoughts about Titties children. That are crossed your desk and these couple of weeks or that kind of thing is to keep them also focused on this greater good. Well when I always loved we had time was table games. My my kids love monopoly. I like scrabble but You Know Table Games. Card Games and just Family Activities I'm sure people watch a lot of television. But in the to the extent that that Parents and kids can engage activities other than sitting on the couch watching television. That's a good thing to my kids have been having fun. Doing zoom calls with their grandparents out. There needs to know how to set up zoom call. Justa hit me up on a help good. Yeah that's a really good idea. I think kids writing notes to their grandparents and and posting them and things like that which I think are wonderful I know you've got a busy day in front of you but before we close. I wanted to just ask you about your recommendations to the women's Listening here because you've been such a great community organizer as well as elected official all these years. Your thoughts on things people can do while. They're at home and social distancing that can further the political and community work. They're doing so. I'm a teacher by profession. A big believer in reading And as all of you who listen to this podcast. Rebecca's the author of voter in which is a great book. The handbook for people who are for women who are looking for an opportunity to serve and I I would recommend Doing a little reading. And you know you can always you can always talk to people on the phone Kinda I I'm encouraging people to keep their networks together. You know talk to your friends talk to your family. We don't want people to be Isolated because they're sheltering in place. I think that's really critical especially for our seniors. We don't want people who are confined to their apartments to be isolated there which means that you can call them. You can text them. You consume them as your children are doing Kelly. It's important that everybody stay in touch and Especially those of us who are who are able bodied. Stay in touch with with those who may be frail or elderly or challenged physically and I saw. I think we're GONNA put those of you listening. We're going to add some links to the end of this Podcast with Tony About resources for you for working at home not only with your family on behalf of your family but doing your community work how you can keep working on behalf of candidates and causes that you care about so do look pretty bad I WanNa just turn to Kelly because some final thoughts she have to ask Tony and then we will close and thank her and ask her to share information from Cook County about where we go to learn more as we need to. Yeah just wondered attorney if you could just you know at a plug for people might not be thinking about running for office right now in this moment during a crisis but I you know I think we're we're going to eventually someday be out of this moment in need to be thinking about getting people into office who who can help in these sorts of crises but also just stay today a so if you could encourage the women who are listening. I in the idea of a running for office especially executive office. Well you know I always tell people if you think you're interested in politics. Pick a candidate and work in a campaign you know. Every campaign is looking for volunteers May Not necessarily be glamorous work but you'll get to see from the inside. You know what? Campaigning is like and while it's different being a candidate staffer. You really do get a sense of campaigns. If you work in them taught I encourage anybody. Who's interested in public office to work in a campaign for a candidate believing it's It's eliminating and it's it's it's critical. Dr Democracy that that folks step up and support candidates they believe in so. That's the first thing second thing is I mean don't Don't count out your experience. I mean a lot of women are leaders in their their PTA parent teacher association or their leaders in their church or their they. They've organized a Park Advisory Council you know all of those kind of activities are good preparation for public service. Sometimes I think we think that you know what it takes to be. An effective elected officials having gone to Law School. But in my view in my view you know what's more important is being part of a grassroots organization. That's working to make change in your neighborhood. So you know and lots of ways as I said to to do that. School Church Religious Institution Just community activities. Those kinds of experiences are really really helpful. When you'RE GONNA run for office first of all they put you in touch with a network of folks who share your convictions and your beliefs and secondly you know they give you an opportunity to take on leadership roles and in ways that are beneficial to your community. So I you know I. I encourage people first of all the work in political campaigns and secondly to get involved in their in their neighborhoods in one way or another. No lots of ways. As I suggested to do that thank you so much for sharing needs minutes with us today. before we close as I said is there any For further information given the fact that we're in the midst of this This pandemic in Cook County. You can text alerts cook. That's all one word allergic cook. Eight eight eight seven seven seven. So it's alert cook all one word. Eight eight dash seven seven seven. And you'll get periodic texts updates about where we are in terms of the pandemic and actions. You can take action. Government is taking on your behalf. So that's one thing I'm if you want information about the the cove in one thousand nine the virus itself we have information line seven eight six three three three three one nine seven eight six three three three three one nine it staffed by medical personnel between nine and four every day seven eight six three three three three one nine So you can call and get information you can get. You can sign up for text alerts. We have more than thirty thousand people who've signed up for text alerts system and those will provide you with with information and and You know opportunities to to be better informed about About our presence state of affairs and with that where we thank you again for joining us and hope you'll back in brighter times and send all good wishes to everyone listening today. Take Care and say thank you to vote. Her in segment is a collaboration of two broads talking. Politics and author Rebecca side. Our theme song is called. Are you listening off of the album elephant shaped trees by the band? Im- Yousry and we're using it with permission of the band. Our logo and other original artwork is by Matthew Whiff Land and was created for use by this podcast. You can contact us at two broads talking. Politics at G MAIL. Dot Com or on twitter or facebook to Bronze Talk. You can find all of our episodes at two broads talking. Politics DOT COM or anywhere podcast or found.