CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle hired Denise Barreto as the county's inaugural Director of Equity and Inclusion.
Barreeto will be in charge of coordinating and integrating racial equity principles into all county operations, projects and services. She will lead efforts already underway: galvanizing internal employee engagement and external community engagement to inform practices and principles that advance racial equity. Barreto will be responsible for design, coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of proactive equity and inclusion initiatives that support the Cook County Policy Roadmap and other county policies and programs.
“I am grateful to Denise Barreto for joining us at this critical time—we’ve seen through the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive protests in response to the murder of George Floyd that racial equity and healing is needed now more than ever,” Preckwinkle said.
Barreto comes to Cook County after a decade as private sector consultant to local government, philanthropic and corporate entities. According to Preckwinkle, she brings a unique combination of facilitation, organizational development, strategic planning and communications skills to Cook County, all enhanced with the lens of equity and inclusion across the public and private sector. Her clients have extended into 45 Illinois government entities across six counties and penetrated the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area with over 12 agencies including the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Minnesota Department of Education. Barreto has also led numerous nonprofit and philanthropic agencies in building capacity for leading and funding with an equity lens in across the United States with a particular emphasis on organizations in New Orleans, Arkansas, Northern California and Eastern Texas.
“This is a dream job for someone who grew up in Harvey and Chicago Heights looking to make an impact on my community. We are at a crossroads, and I am honored to have the trust of President Preckwinkle to lead this effort. Together, we can make Cook County government a leader in advancing racial equity," Barreto said.
Barreto is a native of south Cook County and currently lives in Evanston. She brings extensive government experience to her role as well, having served on the Board of Trustees for the Village of Lake in the Hills. She was the first black person elected in that municipality and one of the first black women ever to win an election in McHenry County, serving residents from 2009—2015.
The addition of a Director of Equity and Inclusion to the Office of the President of the Cook County Board is the latest commitment in a series of steps the Cook County Board President has taken to advance racial equity in Cook County. In June of 2019, Cook County established the Racial Equity Leadership Council to coordinate these efforts and oversee the institutionalization of equity in all policy and practice for Offices Under the President.