Wanted: A CEO who can handle a $2.8 billion budget, about 6,000 employees and who has the “intestinal fortitude” to deal with Cook County politics.
That appears to be what the Cook County Board is seeking in the next CEO of the county’s public health system, a position that’s expected to take about six months to fill.
“What we really need someone to do is run a massive, multibillion-dollar budget, supervise an incredibly diverse group of employees ... and then take care of a really complicated set of revenue flows ...,” said Commissioner Bridget Gainer, speaking Wednesday during the first of three planned public hearings to discuss the CEO opening.
Only three people signed up to speak during the public comment section, with most of the comments coming from commissioners and a representative from Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm the county has picked to help find the new CEO.
Dr. John Jay Shannon was ousted as CEO last November, when the Board of Cook County Health voted unanimously not to renew his contact. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has in recent days called attention to budgetary challenges in the county health system. Preckwinkle has said she and the Cook County Board should have greater say in the decision-making of the Health Board, proposing amendments to the ordinance governing that body.
Gainer echoed those concerns Wednesday when she stressed that the administrative role of the new CEO would be “incredibly important.”
Commissioner John Daley said it’s important that potential candidates understand the politics of the position they’re considering.
Hill Hammock, chair of the Health Board, said some candidates may be put off by some of what Preckwinkle is proposing.
“That will say to some people that this will be a very politically charged position, in addition to simply delivering good health care,” said Hill Hammock, chair of the Health Board.
Michael J. Loiacano, a partner with the executive search firm, said: “I know politics will play a piece in this, and that person will have to have the intestinal fortitude, the financial acumen and the experience to come in and do successful work here. At the end of the day, ... we’re here to take care of the community.”
The next public hearing is set for 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 27, at South Suburban College, Performing Arts Center, 15800 S. State St., South Holland.