Chicago’s Cook County Commissioner: Part One—About the Man

Dan Patlak is a politico.

He’s held campaign posts from volunteer campaign manager for a state representative race to press secretary on a U.S. Senate campaign. He’s even run for office himself.

In 2010, Dan was elected as a Commissioner at the Cook County Board of Review in Illinois. He represents one-third of his county’s population.

Illinois’ Cook County includes 946 square miles and represents 5.3 million people, making it the “second most populous county in the nation and the 19th largest government in the United States,” according to the Cook County, Illinois webpage. This county includes the City of Chicago and the suburban municipalities surrounding it.

After the “Republican Revoluton” of 1994, Dan dreamed of moving to Washington, D.C. to work full time in politics for a newly elected Member of Congress.

“After speaking to an old time friend who recommended the Leadership Institute and their Capitol Hill School, I boarded a plane to Washington in early December to take the class and hopefully secure employment with one of the legislators in DC,” Dan reflected. 

The training was held at a hotel, he said, because the Leadership Institute (LI) had yet to secure a building of its own. Not until September 18, 1996 did LI open the doors to its current Steven P.J. Wood Building in Arlington, Virginia.

“I picked up some good tips about the legislative workforce,” Dan said, “and heard from a speaker who I was to make friends with at another LI class a year later.  His name was Alex Mooney and he was a legislative correspondent for a congressman from Maryland.” 

In 1995, Dan joined Al Salvi’s U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois as a volunteer.

So, Dan came back for more LI training. This time he took LI’s Campaign Leadership School, now renamed the Campaign Management School.

“I hung out each night with a group of about seven people,” Dan remembered.  “One was Alex Mooney who went on to unseat the moderate Maryland Senate Minority leader two years later at the age of 27.  I am proud to say that I was the first person to make a financial contribution to Senator Mooney’s campaign…Also in our group was 21-year-old Adam Mack from Maine who, a year later, was elected a state representative, also defeating a moderate Republican Party leader.”  


One month after Dan took LI’s Campaign Leadership School, the Salvi campaign hired him on full time.

“I was hired by the Salvi campaign to be the assistant press secretary,” Dan shared.  “Following Salvi’s primary win, I was promoted to press secretary.  Unfortunately, Salvi lost the general election to Dick Durbin and I was not able to fulfill my desire to work in DC.” 

But, with each campaign experience, Dan learned more and applied LI lectures to the campaigns and causes of his choice.

“Since taking the Campaign Leadership School, I have referred many times to the spiral notebook I filled with notes,” admitted Dan.  “The lectures for that school covered the gamut from door-to-door canvassing to literature creation to polling and far beyond.  The speakers were among the most expert conservatives in the country.

He continued, “Over the years I have attended 10 Leadership Institute trainings, including the Future Candidate, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Grassroots Activist, Youth Leadership, Capitol Hill Writing, Get-Out-the-Vote, and Internet schools.” 

At the Future Candidate School, Dan befriended a fellow attendee in his twenties from Texas. His name was Rick Green, Dan said, and this 20-something went on to win a spot in the Texas House of Representatives, where he represented Central Texas’ District 45 from 1999 to 2003. Later, Rick went on to run for the Texas Supreme Court.

Dan regularly encourages folks to attend LI training. He told the Leadership Institute that Tom Morrison began attending LI courses through his recommendation. Tom was elected as a Illinois state representative in November 2010, and won by 24 percentage points.

“LI classes are great for what they teach and if you attend a multi-day class they are just as valuable for the opportunity to meet fellow conservatives from around the United States who possess a desire to build a better America,” Dan said.

Please welcome Dan Patlak as LI’s Graduate of the Week. He may just one day find himself working in Washington, fulfilling a long-time dream. You just never know where LI graduates will go.

“As the highest ranking Republican Cook County office holder, I have encouraged my staff as well as any other motivated people who want to win elections to attend the Leadership Institute,” Dan said.


Tune in next week for “Chicago’s Cook County Commissioner: Part Two—An Inside Look within the Office,” in which we will highlight one of his staffers and give you a peek into the inner workings within a commissioner’s office.

To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate to be featured as LI's graduate of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at

LI offers training in 50 states and dozens of countries. Please go here to register for an already-scheduled training or contact LI to request training in your area.