Editor’s note: This story is the fourth in a series featuring candidates for Cook County’s 5th District, which includes Flossmoor.
For Kierra Williams, the role of a Cook County commissioner is not about following a clearly defined personal agenda but rather about being flexible in the face of whatever challenges come the way of District 5 and its residents.
“I’m not set on anything; I know that life throws us curveballs,” Williams said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for me in this position, how I can actually help make a difference.”
Williams, 25, of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, expects to graduate Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in May 2023 and go into in-house counsel or corporate law. She already holds a bachelor’s degree in community health from the University of Illinois. While being raised in South Holland, she graduated from Thornton Township High School as valedictorian.
She previously dipped her toes into the political waters in 2015 by running for and winning a two-year vacancy with the Thornton Township High School District 205 Board of Education. But the soon-to-be-open District 5 is something Williams talked about with her family and prayed on before making the decision to run.
“It was perfect timing when Deborah Sims announced she wanted to step down,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t have to run against another woman who was already fulfilling her position.”
Williams said she thinks Sims has done the job well. After District 5 was established in 1994, Sims became the first and thus far only person to hold the seat of commissioner there. Williams said taking over means following in Sims’ footsteps but also adapting to how the world has changed in 28 years.
“She had to make it her own, and she did that,” Williams said. “I feel like that’s exactly what it’ll be for the next person in that position. You’re stepping into some big shoes to fill but making it your own.”
Williams thinks it is important that another woman fills those shoes. That she can bring a young perspective to the board is that much better, she said.
“I really want to be part of the women-in-politics movement and also get young people into politics sooner than later,” Williams said. “A lot of times, people wait until they get older to understand what’s going on in their communities and help and change. I really want to be the face of the youth in showing them we can help do things now.”
Williams said that starts with acknowledging that things are not always supposed to stay the same.
“Change is OK,” she said. “A lot of times, people get set in their ways and think about how things have been or should be or would be.”
Despite studying out of state in recent years, Williams said she has been back home at least once a month, typically every other week. As someone family-oriented, Williams picked a school where she knew she could get back and forth whenever necessary. She remains involved in her neighborhood and has kept up on what is happening in District 5. What she does not know, she is ready to learn.
”I’m willing to get out there and find out what my district needs and how I can make it happen,” Williams said.
While Williams knows there are some things a commissioner just cannot anticipate, she would take office with some clear goals. She said her top priority at the moment is bringing a trauma center to District 5 because most trauma patients have to be taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“It’s out of the way; it’s not OK,” Williams said. “One of the biggest concerns for me is the lack of health care resources. … These are things that people need as they get up in age. Our grandmothers and grandfathers shouldn’t have to go across the city or state to get adequate services.”
Williams’ campaign site notes economic development and correctional re-entry assistance are also priorities. And she is passionate about educating people about politics. People often do not know who their commissioner is, let alone which representatives are responsible for what things, she said.
“A lot of times, people vote, they don’t even know what the positions are,” Williams said. “Everybody has a role. I really want to help break that down, break down the political structure so people can know who their representatives are and what they’re responsible for.”
Williams said she is not anticipating too many rigorous courses during her final semester of law school. If elected commissioner, she said she would utilize virtual communications and plan flights home around the demands of the position until she finishes school next May.
For more information about Williams, visit kierraforcommissioner.com.
The General Primary in Illinois is Tuesday, June 28. Williams is to face off in the District 5 Democratic primary against Jaylin D. McClinton, Vernard L. Alsberry Jr. and Monica M. Gordon. No Republican candidates have filed to run for the office. District 5 includes Flossmoor.