News from President Toni Preckwinkle

President Preckwinkle names new Director of County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced the appointment of Michael Masters as Director of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Masters, a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, was the Chief of Staff to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Jody Weis from April 2008 to April 2011. Prior to that, he served as Assistant to the Mayor for Public Safety. He previously spent time working for the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. as well as in the non-profit sector.

Masters has earned degrees from the University of Michigan, where he graduated with honors, as well as the University of Cambridge and Harvard Law School.

As Weis’s Chief of Staff, Masters implemented and oversaw police policies, operations and strategies. He was also responsible for communications, intergovernmental affairs and community outreach efforts. As a legal fellow with the United States Attorney’s Office, Masters assisted in preparing cases and organizing evidence used in the prosecution of a number of federal trials.

Preckwinkle said she is thankful that he has accepted to work in such an important role at a critical time for the County’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency.

“Having served the City of Chicago in many capacities, we’re honored to have him join us. He is a talented individual and his extensive background is a great match for this critical position in County government. If you take a look at his resume, it’s spectacular. We are very grateful that he has stepped forward to take on this challenge,” said Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle said Masters will be charged with bringing transparency, accountability and efficiency to the Department.

“As the second largest county in the United States, the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has the potential to be at the forefront of efforts to coordinate and direct the emergency preparedness and homeland security efforts for multiple jurisdictions and millions of residents,” she said.

“New leadership is sorely needed. The scandals and mismanagement have distracted the Department and our staff from the important task at hand and it’s time to refocus on the Department’s mission. That’s the kind of change that Michael will deliver.”

Masters said that the President has set a very clear agenda for the Department.

“The President has been very clear about her priorities and I am strongly committed to implementing fiscally responsible practices. I will immediately meet with all staff members, as well as conduct an audit of all material and equipment, determine capabilities as well as deficiencies and adjust staffing and assets accordingly,” said Masters. “Through better planning, response, and coordination of information and resources, the DHSEM can assist the County’s governmental and business entities as well as private residents in their preparation for a disaster or a potentially catastrophic incident.”

Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski said this appointment represents an important opportunity to change the direction of one of the County’s critical responsibilities.

“The Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will benefit from fresh leadership. We have all heard about the problems the Department has faced, particularly Project Shield and, as Chair of the Board’s Homeland Security Committee, I welcome this change at the top and look forward to working with Mr. Masters,” he said.

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer said Masters’s background makes him eminently qualified for this new role.

“As a Marine and former law enforcement official, Mike Masters brings great qualifications for the job. As important, he has been a creative and important partner with my office as we have worked on criminal justice issues from juvenile detention to prostitution. He will be a tremendous addition to our public safety infrastructure at Cook County,” she said.

Gainer is the Vice Chair of the Board’s Homeland Security Committee.

Masters will also be appointed as co-chair of the Chicago/Cook County Urban Area Working Group (UAWG). UAWG is tasked with allocating funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to increase security preparedness throughout the County.

The UAWG is headed by two appointed co-chairs. One is assigned by the Cook County Board President and the other is assigned by the Mayor of Chicago. The UAWG includes more than 200 public safety officials and representatives from 134 municipalities. In Fiscal Year 2010, the nation’s UAWGs received Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding totaling $832 million.

“With a stronger and more coordinated approach, the DSHEM can be in a position to act as a regional and national leader in emergency management and homeland security; coordinating training, undertaking awareness campaign and, when required, providing a leadership role for both municipalities and residents during a homeland security or emergency event,” Masters said.

DSHEM is responsible for coordinating all homeland security and emergency management efforts across all 134 municipalities and 30 townships  in all unincorporated areas and in those incorporated jurisdictions that do not have a county certified emergency management program, as well as coordinating all homeland security and emergency management efforts with all of Cook County government.

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