Conroy sworn in, securing her place in DuPage County history and presiding over diverse board
Newly empowered Democrats took full control of DuPage County government Monday during a swearing-in ceremony unlike any other.
Deb Conroy was sworn in as county board chair, a feat accomplished by no other woman before her. Conroy acknowledged the milestone in her inauguration speech but pledged to make history on multiple fronts, not just because she happens "to be the first woman elected to lead the county board."
"We will make history because together we can and will make significant lasting change that impacts people's lives and lifts up our residents," Conroy said in front of a crowded auditorium in Wheaton.
Democrats now have an unparalleled opportunity to push their agenda after decades of Republican leadership.
County government entered a new political era two years ago when Democrats won the board majority for the first time since the Great Depression.
Voters in last month's election handed Democrats all the levers of power in DuPage. Democrats maintained their board majority, capturing 11 of 18 available seats, and Conroy, a decadelong state lawmaker, won the top executive post.
She replaces Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican who decided not to seek a fourth term. After reciting the oath of office, Conroy vowed to "create a bottom-up approach to policymaking that will give residents a real voice in county government." She reiterated campaign promises to focus on affordable housing programs and mental health services.
"My focus is on making sure our county government works for all people and leaves no one behind," Conroy said, drawing applause. "Not only can we help provide food, clothing, shelter, education and employment services to those in need, but we must address the underlying causes for the disruption in their lives. Too often that unspoken and unaddressed need has to do with mental health."
Conroy will preside over one of the most diverse county boards in modern times.
Michael Childress also was sworn in Monday as the first Black man elected to the county board. And two Asian American women -- Lucy Chang Evans and Yeena Yoo -- began their first board terms.
Yoo, 43, is a legal aid attorney who represents seniors, veterans and immigrants for Catholic Charities. The daughter of South Korean immigrants, Yoo arrived in the United States at the age of 2, grew up in Missouri and has spent her entire legal career in Illinois.
"Representation truly matters," Yoo said ahead of her swearing-in.
The board also is composed of a majority of women. They include new Republican board members Cindy Cronin Cahill, Kari Galassi and Patty Gustin.
Cronin Cahill, the sister of the now former board chairman, and Galassi are certified public accountants. Gustin is a real estate broker who previously served on the Naperville county council.
Conroy called on the newly seated board to "forge a bipartisan partnership in governing, one that focuses on problem solving, and policies that work for those who need help the most."