Advisory Panel Biographies

Census Advisory Panel

  • Deborah Bennett, Senior Program Officer at Polk Bros. Foundation
  • Former Representative Mike Fortner
  • Maria Pesqueira, President of Healthy Communities Foundation
  • Representative André Thapedi
  • Representative Carol Ammons
  • Representative Elizabeth (Lisa) Hernandez
  • Representative Ryan Spain
  • Representative Theresa Mah
  • Senator Andy Manar
  • Senator Dan McConchie
  • Senator Iris Martinez
  • Senator Kimberly Lightford
  • Senator Jil Tracy


Deborah Bennett

Deborah Bennett, Senior Program Officer at Polk Bros Foundation

Has over 20 years of experience as a community development practitioner. She is currently a Senior Program Officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation, where she is a program area leader for workforce development, affordable housing, community economic development and safe communities. Prior to joining the foundation, Deborah held several positions at Shorebank Corporation including senior consultant for Shorebank Advisory Services where she crafted housing, labor force and commercial development strategies for a variety of community development entities around the country. She has also worked as an economic development planner at the UIC Center for Urban Economic Development and as director of an employment initiative for low-income women. Deborah has a bachelor's and master's degree in economics from Stanford and Kent State Universities, respectively. In 2010 she was awarded an Association of Black Foundation Executives fellowship. Deborah has served on a number of non-profit boards. She currently serves as secretary of the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund and is on the leadership committee of the Preservation Compact and the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance.

Mike Fortner

Former Representative Mike Fortner, 95th District

Former mayor of West Chicago and has headed transportation policy for the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference. He has a B.A. in math and physics from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He also teaches physics at Northern Illinois University, and co-chairs the Illinois Articulation Initiative Physics Panel. He formerly was a West Chicago alderman and a member of the West Chicago Elementary District 33 School Board.

Maria Pesqueira

Maria Pesqueira, President of Healthy Communities Foundation

Appointed President of the Healthy Communities Foundation (formerly The Arthur Foundation) in May 2017. The Foundation's mission is to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities in over 20 communities in western Cook County by promoting health equity, quality and access. Prior to joining the Healthy Communities Foundation, Maria served as President to Mujeres Latinas en Accion. Preceding her time at Mujeres, Maria led The National Museum of Mexican Art's Development and Marketing team. Her civic and community involvement includes appointments to the United States Congressional Commission for a National Women's History Museum, Illinois Children and Family Services Advisory Commission, Illinois Partners for Human Services, Community Memorial Foundation, Aetna Medical Advisory Board, and The Chicago Network. Maria is the eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants and a graduate of the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Program; St. Thomas University, Mini-MBA in Nonprofit Management; and DePaul University, B.A. Latin American Studies. Maria and her husband David are proud parents of their son David Ollin.

André Thapedi

Representative André Thapedi, 32nd District

Attorney, Real Estate Broker; Graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep (Chicago), Morehouse College (Atlanta) and the John Marshall Law School (Chicago); Associate attorney with two major Chicago law firms before founding Thapedi & Thapedi law firm with his mother, retired Circuit Court Judge Llwellyn Thapedi.

Representative Carol Ammons

Representative Carol Ammons, 103rd District

Full-time legislator; former member of Urbana City Council and Champaign County Board; volunteered at Courage Connections (A Woman's Fund); worked at Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, Salvation Army Food Pantry, and University YMCA; resides in Urbana; married, has three children.

Elizabeth (Lisa) Hernandez

Representative Elizabeth (Lisa) Hernandez, 24th District Assistant Majority Leader

Full-time state legislator; former Senior Policy Advisor to Lt. Governor Patrick Quinn; administrator in Cicero public schools for 17 years; community volunteer and current member of Children's Center of Cicero and Berwyn, Cicero Youth Services, and Pilsen-Little Village Mental Health Agency; Labor Council for Latin American Development member; former UFCW member; AA in Liberal Arts, Morton College (2001), coursework in public administration, Governors State University; married (Charlie) and mother of two daughters and one son.

Ryan Spain

Representative Ryan Spain, 73rd District

Vice President of Economic Development, OSF Healthcare System; born October 11, 1982, in Peoria; Bronze Tablet Scholar Graduate from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MBA from Bradley University; former Peoria City Council Member, Board Member for Downtown Development Corporation of Peoria and Greater Peoria EDC; married to Ashley, has two daughters.

Theresa Mah

Representative Theresa Mah, 2nd District

Former college professor; Ph.D., University of Chicago; community organizer and policy advocate; local school council member; policy advisor to Governor Pat Quinn; served on the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and board of directors for Common Cause Illinois; worked closely with the Asian American Employment Plan Advisory Council and the Language Access Task Force for the State of Illinois; a daughter of immigrant parents, Mah is the first Asian American to serve in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Andy Manar

Senator Andy Manar, 48th District

B.A. in History, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; past chairman of Macoupin County Board; married (wife, Trista), has three children.

Dan McConchie

Senator Dan McConchie, 26th District

Senior Advisor to The Shelby Group; served nine years in the Army National Guard; Member of the Board of Regents for The Fund for American Studies; Member of the Board of Directors of Informed Choices Pregnancy & Parenting in Grayslake and Crystal Lake; Lives in Hawthorn Woods; Married (Milena); two daughters.

Iris Martinez

Senator Iris Martinez, 20th District
Assistant Majority Leader

Born Feb. 25, 1956, in Chicago; earned her bachelor's degree in public policy and administration from Northeastern Illinois University in 2009; elected president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. She is also the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Co-Chair; has one daughter.
Kimberly Lightford

Senator Kimberly Lightford, 4th District
Senate Majority Leader

Full-time senator; B.A. in Communications, Western Illinois University; M.A. in Public Administration, University of Illinois Springfield; former Village of Maywood trustee; former employee at Secretary of State, Department of Corrections and Central Management Services; longtime champion in the Senate for education, working families and women's issues; currently sits on the Council of State Governments/Midwestern Legislative Conference Education Committee; lives in Maywood with her family.
Jill Tracy

Senator Jil Tracy, 47th District
Republican Caucus Whip

Elected in November of 2016. She previously served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014. In her early career, Tracy worked in private law as the Mt. Sterling City Attorney and an Assistant Illinois Attorney General. She currently serves on the John Wood Community College Foundation Board, the Network Knowledge WQEC/WSEC/PBS Board. She was also a founding board member of the Brown County United Way and served for more than 13 years on the Mt. Sterling Park District Board. In addition to Senate Committees, she serves as a member of the Executive Appointments Committee, Illinois' Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, as well as the Legislative Research Unit. She and her husband, Jim, live in Quincy and have four grown children and two grandchildren.

  • Staff Contacts

  • Marishonta Wilkerson
    Statewide Census Director
    Illinois Dept of Human Services
    401 S Clinton St, 6th Fl, Chicago, IL  60607
    O:  312-793-1756
    C:  312-898-8774
  • Oswaldo Alvarez
    Statewide Census Director
    Illinois Dept of Human Services
    401 S Clinton St, 7th Fl, Chicago, IL  60607
    O:  312-793-9954
    C:  312-254-7611