After 25 years of working in corporate
America Jaye Williams decided it was time for
That change brought Williams, 53, to the
helm of the county’s financial department in
August. And now as Cook County’s chief
financial officer, she is charged not only with
managing a $3.1 billion budget, but also with
making sound, fiscal decisions on behalf of
Williams is a veteran in the local corporate
industry. She has also worked at several local
financial institutions including Bank One - now
JP Morgan Chase Bank - and LaSalle Bank,
which is now Bank of America.
Additionally, for the past 25 years she has
been married to Rufus Williams, sports attorney
and former president of the Chicago
Her new annual salary, which hovers around
$175,000, is far less than what she earned in the
“You do not come to work for the public sector
expecting to make a lot of money especially
during tough, economic times,” she said.
“Yes, I am making less than what I earned in
the private sector but I have gained so much
more in other ways.”
She replaces Donna Dunning, who was fired
this year, in part, because of allegations that she
was involved in an inappropriate relationship
with a former county employee she supervised.
Dunnings has denied the allegation.
While the campaign for the office of Cook
County Board President is being waged all
around her, Williams keeps her distance from
the political wrangling.
“I try not to let politics become a part of this
office because I am not a politician,” she told
the Defender. “I recognize how complex and
challenging this position is, which is why I find
this job so exciting. One of the biggest challenges
I see for the county is how to continue
delivering cost-efficient services such as health
Indeed, with the county’s portion of the state
sales tax, which is 1.75 percent, set to roll back
to 1.25 percent beginning July 1, providing
quality health care will pose a challenge to the
county, according to Cook County Board
President Todd Stroger.
Williams admits that prior to joining the
county she did not know Stroger personally,
though her husband did.
“But I did not get this job because of my husband.
I was hired based on my experience as a
fiscal manager,” Williams clarified. “And I
absolutely love my job.”
Her boss said he is pleased with her work
and is happy she agreed to join his management
team at the county.
“Jaye is widely experienced in financial
services and strategic management,” Stroger
said. “Her history of successful engagement
with new initiatives, combined with her extensive
experience in corporate finance, makes her
an outstanding selection.”
To date, she has only hired two people to fill
vacant positions and said when she looks to
hire someone she looks for the best, qualified
person, not race or political affiliation.
“The staffing here is phenomenal. When we
were preparing the 2010 budget there were
some weeks we worked six days,” recalls
Williams. “I have a dedicated staff working
County departments under her realm include
the comptroller, purchasing, risk management,
budget, and revenue. There are roughly 200
employees who work within these departments
and under Williams’ watchful eye.
While admitting she has not had time to
explore new revenue streams to replace the
anticipated $200 million the county stands to
lose beginning in 2010 thanks to the sales tax
reduction, Williams said she is not opposed to
leasing county assets just as the City of
Chicago did when it privatized its parking
meters. With each lease deal the city netted
over $1 billion.
“By April we would have begun to look at
ways to raise new revenue for the county,” said
Williams, who has a bachelor's degree in
finance from the University of Illinois and an
MBA in finance and accounting from
Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate
School of Management.
And when she is not working on for the
county taxpayer, she is engaged in philanthropic
work, something she enjoys.
That work includes mentoring to young professionals
and serving on the board for several
A mother of one adult son and an daughter,
she reads to relax and especially enjoys reading
Originally born and raised in southern
Illinois, the Lincoln Park resident describes
herself as a “private, compassionate person
who is also a critical thinker.”