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Environmental Advocate Precious Brady-Davis Becomes First Black, Trans Woman Appointed To Public Office In Cook County

Brady-Davis was sworn in Wednesday as a commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which works to protect Lake Michigan's water.

Precious Brady-Davis, commissioner for the Cook County Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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LAKEVIEW — LGBTQ+ rights and environmental activist Precious Brady-Davis was sworn in as a commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on Wednesday, making her the first Black transgender woman appointed to public office in Cook County.

Gov. JB Pritzker appointed Brady-Davis, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the seat in 2022, to fill a vacancy left by Commissioner Kim du Buclet, who was appointed to the Illinois General Assembly.

“This is a major historical moment for our community and also a deeply meaningful moment in my life,” Brady-Davis said after being sworn into the role Wednesday at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., where she worked as a youth outreach coordinator a decade ago.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Precious Brady-Davis poses for a portrait at City Hall on June 21, 2023.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is the Cook County agency that manages stormwater and wastewater. The agency works to mitigate flooding and convert wastewater into clean water.

The board’s commissioners run the agency, oversee its budget and create policy.

Brady-Davis said the role is crucial, especially at a time when climate change is causing extreme heat, flooding and forest fires that affect Chicago’s air quality.

“Climate change is here, and we need action now,” she said. “We need leaders who see and speak the truth, and I am here to meet the moment.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (left) swears in Precious Brady-Davis as the first Black, trans woman on the Cook County Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board.

Brady-Davis recently served as deputy press secretary and regional communications manager for the Sierra Club. Previously, she was youth outreach coordinator at the Center on Halsted and assistant director of diversity recruitment initiatives at Columbia College Chicago, where she graduated in 2013 with a liberal arts degree.

“The appointment of a lifelong advocate and trailblazer like Precious Brady-Davis will bring another fierce voice in defense of environmental justice and equity to the MWRD board,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I am proud to appoint her to this essential role and hope that Black, trans youth across Illinois see a role model for civic engagement and service to others.”

Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said during the swearing-in ceremony that Brady-Davis was “highly qualified” for the role and a “history maker” with a “proven track record of making an impact to uplift communities.”

Brian Johnson, CEO of LGBTQ+ rights organization Equality Illinois, said in a statement that Brady-Davis “has never backed down from advocating in what she believes in passionately.”

“Now more than ever, we need trans voices in rooms of power,” Johnson said. “Precious will be a powerful voice for change in protecting Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water, and will inspire more trans people across the country to run for public office.”

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with more than a dozen elected and appointed officials, were in attendance to congratulate the new commissioner.

Lightfoot celebrated the Black, trans representation Brady-Davis will bring to the Water Reclamation District board while encouraging people to vote for her in the next election.

“Today is an important milestone to celebrate, but we also need to make sure that Precious gets on the ballot, has the resources she needs and we are not complacent on the sidelines,” Lightfoot said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Precious Brady-Davis poses for a portrait with her best-selling 2021 memoir, I Have Always Been Me, at City Hall on June 21, 2023.

Brady-Davis, who lives in Hyde Park with her family, has long embraced being a public figure to inspire other Black, trans people.

In 2021, she released her biography, “I Have Always Been Me,” in which she shares details of her childhood trauma and her journey as a transgender woman.

Brady-Davis was the first trans bride to appear on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” when she starred on the show in 2016.

“I am reminded of the trans young people I first encountered at this center so many years ago,” she said. “My presence here as the first trans woman of color in this position means so much to me, but also to so many others in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Brady-Davis will participate in her first board meeting Thursday.

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