Will County Board Democrats discuss leadership roles, rules changes

New members will be sworn in Monday

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Will County Board Democrats met virtually Wednesday night to discuss who they'd like to see in leadership and potential rules changes for the new term.

The Democrats agreed to renominate Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, to be speaker of the board. Cowan filled the role after Denise Winfrey, D-Joliet, was appointed to be the interim county executive earlier this year following the death of Larry Walsh Sr.

The caucus also backed Member Meta Mueller, D-Aurora, to be the next majority leader. Mark Ferry, D-Plainfield, had served as majority leader, though he lost his bid for reelection to the board last month.

The Will County Board will hold a meeting on Monday after new members and the county executive-elect are sworn in. The meeting's main purpose is for the board to vote on who will serve as speaker and the majority and minority leaders for the next two years and to vote on the body's procedural rules.

With Democrats maintaining their 14-12 majority, if the caucus votes uniformly, they'll be able to approve their nominations for leadership roles.

Cowan and the other leaders will also have to decide on which members will sit on which committees.

The board also has to approve its rules with a few notable changes to how they'll do business up for consideration.

Some proposed changes include combining the Judicial Committee and Legislative and Policy Committee into one. The Judicial Committee has rarely had business to meet for, so members said it made sense to incorporate it into the Legislative and Policy Committee.

Members have also argued for moving the opportunity for the public to make comments from the end of board meetings to near the start.

Perhaps the most contentious change is a proposal from some Republican members to specify how many members of each party should be seated on most committees.

GOP members have argued whichever party controls the majority on the board, should only be able to seat a simple majority on each committee. For instance, if a committee is made up of seven members, then Democrats for this term would have four seats and Republicans would have three.

Such a requirement is not in the existing rules.

Some Democrats argued the power to decide committee members should remain with the speaker.

"I don't think we need to codify this into some kind of rule because that hamstrings whoever the speaker is," Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said Wednesday.

Others added that committees could be made up based not just on party, but on member's areas of subject matter expertise.

Cowan said while she sees both sides of the argument, she will respect the wishes of her caucus and not change the rules. Though she said she's told Republicans she will compose committees with a simple majority.

"I think that's fair," she said.

Members are also looking to establish a new committee on diversity and inclusion. Winfrey said the committee is meant to support a future diversity officer the county might hire.

The Republican caucus will meet virtually on Saturday.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.