Noted by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd as a rising star in Illinois politics, Bridget Gainer was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2010, where she represents the 10th District. With an MBA from the University of Chicago and a strong background in finance, Commissioner Gainer led efforts to create the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA), the region’s most comprehensive effort to reduce the amount and impact of vacant land and abandoned buildings and to revitalize properties throughout Cook County. Bringing together small businesses, realtors, developers, civic and social leaders, Commissioner Gainer’s work has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Crain’s Chicago Business.
The CCLBA has one goal: convert blighted properties into community assets, jobs, and homes. Generating more than 300 acquisitions, targeting 8,000 tax delinquent properties, recruiting 135 local developers, and building a $20 million budget, the Land Bank is a model social enterprise built without using taxpayer funds. Now working with local funders, civic leaders, and innovators, Gainer is focused on the Land Bank’s next chapter of building hope at the intersection of violence and joblessness in devastated neighborhoods.
In addition to her work in finance, pensions, and foreclosure, Gainer is spearheading new regional workforce development opportunities by bringing together community colleges, high schools, and businesses to reimagine apprenticeships so that job training today looks more like the economy of tomorrow. This work includes ensuring that workplace policies reflect the modern economy and the needs of working families.
Gainer’s criminal justice reform efforts have been devoted to the women and children in the county’s criminal justice system. She eliminated the practice of separating new mothers awaiting trial from their newborns, led the fight to ban shackling pregnant detainees during delivery, created the first citizen advisory board for the Juvenile Detention Center, and continues to lead the fight to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in County Jail.
Encouraging women of all backgrounds to engage in public dialogue and leadership, Gainer also launched “Off the Sidelines Chicago” to encourage more young women to turn their ideas into action. The new organization has quickly grown to over 2,500 members.