Richard Boykin embraces Chief Judge Timothy Evans after Boykin was sworn in as the newly elected Cook County Commissioner for the 1st District at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Chicago. (CHANDLER WEST/Staff Photographer)

Richard Boykin, the newly installed 1st District Cook County commissioner, has appointed Bellwood resident Cory Foster as his chief of staff, according to a statement released by the commissioner’s office last Wednesday. 

Foster, 41, is a former deputy chief of staff to outgoing Governor Pat Quinn. He also served 42 days as a state representative for the 7th District, having been appointed as an interim between the tenures of current Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and current 7th District State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

“I like to say I had a cup of coffee in the General Assembly,” Foster quipped during a recent interview with Wednesday Journal.

But his experience as a legislator and high-level staff member in Springfield would easily transfer to county government, he noted.

“This was a natural fit for me,” Foster said. “[Richard Boykin] is my commissioner, since I reside in Bellwood. And from my perspective, state, county and local government all intersect. That intersection is basically improving the lives of the citizens of Illinois. We’re certainly committed to that.”

According to the statement released by Boykin’s office, before transitioning to the Governor’s Office, Foster was director of Community Affairs in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. 

“Foster brings extensive background in state government and policy-making, including his work as division manager of statewide services at Central Management Services, as senior policy advisor to the director at the Department of Corrections, and as local office administrator at the Department of Human Services,” the statement notes. “He also spent 17 seasons serving as assistant boys’ basketball coach at Fenwick High School in Oak Park.” 

“I am very pleased Cory Foster is joining my team,” said Commissioner Boykin. “After 16 years in service with the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, the General Assembly and within several state agencies, I am proud Cory has decided to bring his expertise to the county.”

Boykin emphasized Foster’s diverse governmental experience, noting that the former legislator’s background “will make him a valuable asset to my administration and to the people of the 1st District of Cook County.”

Foster is only the latest addition to a Boykin staff dominated by west suburban residents. In fact, Boykin’s entire team so far has been assembled from the western suburbs. 

Adam Salzman, a current Oak Park village trustee who is seeking his second term in office, was brought on as Boykin’s policy director. Jeninne Hixon, a resident of Westchester, is the commissioner’s office manager.

Since Boykin’s swearing-in on Dec. 1, the commissioner’s office has been focused on the interrelated issues of mental health funding and criminal justice reform. During last November’s gubernatorial election, Boykin supported a county referendum to increase mental health funding, which passed with over a million votes throughout the state.

“Residents would be better served if they have access to services in the community, as opposed to over-incarceration,” Foster said.

On Thursday, Jan. 15, at 6 p.m., Boykin will host a Criminal Justice Reform Town Hall Meeting at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, 924 Lake St.

The 1st District covers the majority of the West Side of Chicago and the western suburbs, in addition to a sliver of Chicago’s Northwest Side.