Penton Media’s American City & County magazine, a resource serving city, county and state officials who are charged with developing and implementing government policy, programs and projects, has selected Cook County, Ill.’s President Toni Preckwinkle as its 2012 County Leader of the Year. The magazine presents the award annually to recognize outstanding leadership in county government and will honor Preckwinkle at the 2012 National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition, July 13-17, in Pittsburgh. A profile of Preckwinkle and her contributions to Cook County is featured in the June issue of the magazine and is online at www.americancityandcounty.com.

The County Leader of the Year Award recognizes Preckwinkle’s efforts to resolve serious fiscal and operational challenges in the county. Immediately after assuming office in 2010, she corrected the county’s nearly $500 million deficit and then set to work on the next year’s budget.  In the county’s fiscal year 2012 budget, Preckwinkle closed a $315 million gap, and had the budget approved before the beginning of the fiscal year, in its earliest adoption since 1995.

Despite an austerity budget, Preckwinkle increased funding to the Office of the Inspector General and increased the office’s authority and powers of investigation to change the culture of the county toward more ethical behavior. Also, a new performance measurement system is tracking the county’s progress toward its goals and holding all county agencies accountable for their actions.  She also is fostering cooperation among county departments and with Chicago, as well as with civic, business and philanthropic organizations.

“Toni Preckwinkle is the embodiment of the best in local government leadership,” said Bill Wolpin, editorial director of American City & County. “Her story shows that electing the right person at the right time can make a significant difference in a community’s future, even one the size of Cook County.”

The subscribers of American City & County submit nominations for the County Leader of the Year Award, and the magazine's editorial staff selects the award's recipient each year.