By Dan Haley
Oak Park resident Richard Boykin was sworn in last week as 1st District commissioner for the Cook County Board.
One of his first acts as commissioner was to name Adam Salzman, an Oak Park village trustee, as policy director for the 1st District, which represents Austin, Oak Park and other parts of the West Side.
In a statement, Boykin said, Salzman “has a deep understanding of the larger community and wide ranging knowledge of the policy and legislative priorities of the region, and I am very pleased to have him by my side as we work to build bridges between all of our different communities and county government.”
Salzman, an attorney in private practice, said his decision to take the full-time Cook County job was “a gradual process” that began when he supported Boykin in the Democratic primary early this year.
Salzman then served on a policy subcommittee of Boykin’s transition team and was further impressed by Boykin.
“[Richard’s] inclusiveness is remarkable. He is very diligent in reaching out to people from so many backgrounds. He’s a bridge builder. Very sincere. And his work ethic is second to none. He’s dogged,” Salzman said.
Concerned about any legal conflicts in serving as a paid staff member for a Cook County commissioner while also being an elected official in Oak Park, Salzman said he started the process by meeting with Village Attorney Paul Stephanides. Stephanides, who he said determined there was no legal conflict.
As Salzman talked with others in the village in advance of accepting the county post he said, “This being Oak Park there were a lot of nuanced discussions about how the two roles would interplay. But mostly people saw the potential opportunities” in having him in both positions.
Salzman said that he would recuse himself from any village board discussions that, for instance, involved grants coming from Cook County.
Salzman said to expect Boykin to continue his focus on improving mental health care services and increasing funding for mental health within Cook County. Boykin was responsible for placing an advisory referendum on the November ballot related to mental health funding.
“He feels he has the wind at his back and wants to use that public support to gain more funding.”
Salzman said that “in getting in here and turning on the lights” in Boykin’s new position, “it is clear there are a lot of opportunities for us to partner with (Cook County) department heads” on many projects of interest to the district.
“They are there for the picking,” he said. “We need to capitalize on them.”
Boykin is replacing Earlean Collins, who served as commissioner for 16 years. Collins was not known for high visibility or active pursuit of county dollars for the district.