Ammar Rizki, Chairman

Ammar Rizki was appointed chief financial officer of Cook County in September 2017 having previously served as deputy chief financial officer for almost four years. In that role, he helped devise and implement a multi-year financial plan to ensures that County’s debt and pension obligations grow no more than 2%, which is the Federal Reserve’s forecast long term inflation, ensuring manageable growth without unnecessary burden on County operations

Additionally, Rizki managed the functional implementation of the Countywide Enterprise Resource Planning System to modernize and update the County’s antiquated financial administration systems, resulting in streamlining of financial processes, improved reporting and increased productivity.

Rizki has a diverse background in municipal finance, having started his work for Cook County starting in 2010 as deputy revenue director, where he led initiatives to modernize the department of revenue’s operations, improve tax compliance and increase tax payer education. Prior to that he held a number of managerial and analytic roles in banking and investment management.

Rizki holds an M.B.A from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a B.Sc. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. David Merriman

David Merriman is the Stukel Presidential Professor in the Dept. of Pub. Admin., Univ. of Illinois at Chicago & a Senior Scholar at the Inst. of Gov't and Public Affairs.  He has done many studies on state and local public finance. Topics include Walmart’s impact on local retail markets, tax increment finance, business tax incentives, property tax assessment caps, and state budget policies. He serves as an associate editor of Economic Development Quarterly. He frequently advises elected officials and their staffs and is frequently quoted in the media. H has served on the Illinois Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors under Governors Quinn, Rauner and Pritzker. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Karen Walker

Karen Walker has more than 30 years of professional experience. Her background includes finance, consulting, investment banking and accounting. She began her career as a Certified Public Accountant. Her accounting experience includes audit, tax, mergers and acquisitions, and regulatory compliance. She worked for Ernst & Whinney, Beatrice Company, Mueller Holdings and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Karen specialized in public finance investment banking, where she helped finance more than $50 billion in capital projects. She worked as a banker with Merrill Lynch, Banc of America Securities and regional investment banks.

She served as Director of Financial Services for the Illinois Finance Authority and Chief Financial Officer for the Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”). In recognition of her work with the CTA, Karen received an award for Outstanding Public Service from the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Most recently, she worked as Vice President for Finance & Operations for the Catholic Theological Union and she now serves as Vice President for Finance & Administration for the Chicago Theological Seminary.  In 2020, Karen created Fertile Soil Financial L.L.C., a business and financial consulting firm.  Her clients include nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

Karen serves on the Chicago Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation Board of Directors, the Seaway Bank Auxiliary Board and the Cook County Independent Revenue Commission. She is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and former board member. She earned an MBA in Finance from the Anderson School at the University of California Los Angeles and a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Dr. Paula R. Worthington

Paula R. Worthington is a Senior Lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where she also serves as academic director of the School’s Policy Labs program and faculty lead on its MPP program.  She is consistently recognized for excellence in teaching, having received nine teaching awards since joining Harris in 2004.  While on leave from Harris in 2017-2018, Worthington served as senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in Washington, D.C.   

Worthington’s interests are in state and municipal fiscal policies.  She is currently co-chair of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Transportation Committee and a member of the state of Illinois’s Budgeting for Results Commission.  Worthington received her PhD in economics from Northwestern University in 1988, and prior to joining Harris, she served in numerous positions at the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Chicago and at Northwestern University.