Karin M. Norington-Reaves is a lifelong public servant with more than 30 years of experience in education, law, advocacy, community and workforce development. In 2012, Karin became the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) upon her appointment by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
As CEO and change agent, she led the merger and re-structuring of three diverse workforce systems into what is now the nation’s most extensive publicly funded workforce development system. Karin led The Partnership’s mission to ensure that “every person has the skills to build a career and every business has the talent it needs to compete in a global economy.”
She oversaw the administration of federal, state, and philanthropic funds and the creation of effective programs that assured alignment between the skills demanded by a changing economy and those offered by the region’s labor force. She generated both private and public funding to expand workforce development services throughout Chicagoland. Under her leadership, The Partnership managed over $500 million in federal funds and raised more than $150 million in philanthropic funds, including a $10.9 million grant awarded by the Walmart Foundation—the largest gift in the history of the foundation.
A recognized thought leader on the national stage, Karin has served as a keynote speaker, panelist, and presenter at a host of conferences, and educational institutions. Delegations from Korea, China, and Great Britain have sought to learn from her leadership and organizational development experience. An avid writer, she has published opinion pieces on topics ranging from workforce/economic development, to education access for disabled children, adoption and motherhood.
Karin’s civic engagement extends to numerous organizations. She’s served as a member of the Cook County Economic Development Advisory Committee; the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation; the Board of Advisors for LISC Chicago; the Board of Trustees for the Workforce Development Council of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; the Board of Directors of the Chicago Lighthouse; the Board of the National Retail Federation Foundation; the Board of Access Living; Board of Directors of Empower Illinois, Board Chair of the Untapped Potential Project; the Board of Thrive Chicago and the Board of mothers2mothers. She also spent eight years as a mentor/sponsor for LINK Unlimited.
Karin has received local and national awards for her outstanding professional and community-driven accomplishments. Karin’s recognitions include: the 2016 Excellence in Public Service award by the Civic Federation of Chicago and the Motorola Solutions Foundation; the 2017 Woman of Excellence award from the Chicago Defender; 2018 The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future Giver award from the National Retail Federation Foundation; and 2018 Outstanding Achievement in Workforce & Labor award from Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.
Before The Partnership, Karin served as Director of Cook County Works; Deputy Director of the Office of Urban Assistance for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Chief of Staff for the City of Chicago’s 20th Ward. Karin spent eight years as a litigator for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, and the Citizens Utility Board in the fields of mental health law, education, contracts, and public utility consumer protection. She is a former adjunct law professor at Loyola University’s Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy. Karin began her career as a Teach for America Corps member and first grade bilingual teacher in Compton, California.
In March 2022, Karin resigned from the helm of The Partnership to run for Congress in Illinois’ 1st District. She now consults on economic development, education and workforce development matters in Chicagoland and beyond.
A Chicago native, Karin holds a J.D. from Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas, Texas, and a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She is also the proud mother of a blended family of four children. Of all her titles, she likes “Mama” best.