Brooks first black to lead Will County Board
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain Sun-Times Media December 3, 2012 4:52PM
Herb Brooks Jr. takes the oath of office with other Will County board members during a swearing in ceremony at the Will County Office Building in Joliet Monday, December 3, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 5, 2013 6:20AM
The Will County Board made history on Monday when it unanimously elected the Rev. Herb Brooks Jr. as its first black leader.
“It makes me proud not only to represent my party, but all the ethnic groups across Will County,” the Joliet Democrat said after the county board’s reorganization meeting. “More importantly though, it’s important that government recognize that it doesn’t matter what your race, creed or color is. What’s important is the job that’s at stake.”
Brooks’ election to the highest county board post reflects changes in the county, said Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet).
“It’s more reflective of Will County as a whole,” she said. “The demographics are changing, so this feels great.”
Brooks’ achievement comes 34 years after the late Angeline Dew made history by being the first black on the board. Brooks also is the first Democratic board leader since Democrats last held a board majority in 1980.
The unanimous vote for Brooks was somewhat a surprise because the Nov. 6 election produced a tie on the board with 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Democrats have the edge, because Will County Executive Larry Walsh, a Democrat, can cast tie-breaking votes.
In drafting new board rules, Democrats made one last-minute title compromise with Republicans that may have prompted Republicans to vote for Brooks.
The head of the county board had been called “chairman” when Jim Moustis (R-Frankfort Township) held the post for the past 12 years. But Democrats thought that title was confusing, because Will County has the county executive form of government, and the county chairman form of government is structured differently.
Democrats preferred the title “leader,” but they compromised with Republicans and chose the title “speaker” after Moustis said leader sounded too partisan.
Regardless of his title, Brooks, who is the pastor at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Joliet, said he would work in a bipartisan way.
“My goal is to try to make sure the government of Will County moves as smoothly as possible,” he said.