5 in 5: Lanetta Haynes Turner, Cook County’s Chief of Staff

Results for America Fellowship Alumni give five answers in five minutes. This month, we caught up with Lanetta Haynes Turner, Chief of Staff for Cook County, IL.

  1. Summarize what you do and how you do it.
    In my role as Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, I am the primary connector and collaborator between the President’s Office and 10 other separately elected offices to ensure we have a seamless government for our residents. I ensure that we make sound policy decisions, are fiscally responsible and that we do the work with equity, excellence and engagement at the forefront.
  2. Share something exciting that you’re working on.
    Over the last two years we have made racial equity a priority of our administration and have worked to build our internal capacity. The challenges of where we are as a country on racial and social justice issues along with the pandemic has certainly amplified why the work we do matters to real people in our communities. From our response and recovery work to ensure our residents and businesses had the support they need to weather the fiscal fallout of the pandemic, to the racial equity town halls where we are re-envisioning how we engage virtually with our residents, to creating safe spaces for our employees to process the issues of the day, I am humbled and excited to be able to be in this moment where the decisions we make as government define who we are and what we want our future to look like. The work is hard, intentional, focused and changes lives — that’s what excites me every day when I wake up.
  3. Tell us one thing you learned from someone else during your RFA Fellowship.
    During my time as an RFA Local Government Fellow we had Brian Elms, author of Peak Performance, attend a session and he talked about how they established Peak Academy, geared towards coaching and innovation in government. I had to leave the presentation early to catch my flight home, but I was hooked by the exercises he had us do in the class. I read the book on the plane and immediately called a meeting with my team. Nearly two years later, we have established our own academy — The Office of Research, Operations and Innovation (ROI) — which has completely transformed how we look at performance management and, most importantly, how we train and empower our staff to see a problem and use continuous improvement tools to improve operations through creative, data-driven solutions. Through ROI, our employees have improved our service by streamlining and increasing competitiveness for emergency procurements, simplifying the Office of Contract Compliance’s vendor application process and redeveloping its diversity reporting structure, simplifying the employee health arrearage payment process, and streamlining the Department of Administrative Hearings’ document transfer process.
  4. If you could wave a magic wand and have any data or evidence, what would it be?
    Given where we are with the pandemic, I would like to see data around remote work — specifically in the public sector — and whether there is the same level of productivity when employees are not in the office. Working remotely has been a huge shift for governments across the board and anecdotally, I think we have been just as, if not more productive. I think we can make a case that government can be outside the traditional office and still provide critical services to residents.
  5. What’s the [pick-your-adjective] job you’ve ever had?
    As I look back on my career, every job I’ve had has prepared me for the role I am in now. It is hands down the best job I’ve ever had. Even when I’ve had a bad day, I remind myself that it matters to be an African American woman, at this time, in this role, working with a phenomenal President who has been a trail blazer and fearless public servant since before I was born.

Extra Question: How is Cook County adapting its work in response to COVID-19 and urgent calls for racial equity?
In response to COVID-19 we were intentional in crafting our COVID Rapid Response and Equitable Recovery Plan through an equitable lens to ensure critical resources needed by our residents from rental and housing assistance to our small business development initiative, were equitably distributed. In September, we also held our second annual Racial Equity Week. This year’s theme was Cook County Past, Present and Future: Acknowledging past harm, reckoning with impact today, and casting a vision for our county’s future. You can learn more about the week’s series of interactive virtual events here!

Interested in learning more about Cook County, IL’s work? Read the December 6, 2018 case study on Cook County’s release of opioid and gun homicide data to the public to help combat growing epidemics.

Lanetta Haynes Turner participated in Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship.

Working with decision-makers at all levels of government to harness the power of evidence and data to solve the world’s greatest challenges.