One of the objectives of Kane County’s May 8 Leaders Summit at the Q Center will be to connect local government and private-sector leaders with key state of Illinois department heads — brass-tacks government officials whose day-to-day actions and decisions affect the quality of life in our area.
Thanks to a little persistence from Kane County department heads and with the combined draw of local government leaders from Kane County cities, park districts, townships, hospitals and private sector stakeholders, three state of Illinois officials have agreed to be speakers/panelists: Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director J.M. “Jim” Schultz, Illinois Department of Transportation Acting Secretary Randy Blankenhorn and Illinois Department of Public Health Outreach Manager Juana Ballesteros.
“This summit provides a rare opportunity for state department heads to learn more about the challenges facing Kane County, and for Kane County public and private-sector leaders to network with Springfield decision-makers in the areas of health, transportation, economic development,” Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said. “Our fondest hope is that all will leave this summit with a better working relationship and a better understanding of the challenges we face together.”
Kane County officials can register for the register for the 2015 Kane County Leaders Summit online or by contacting Kane County Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff at (630) 232-3451 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Early bird registration is available through today.
Here’s an introduction to the speakers and panelists:
Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Randall S. Blankenhorn
Randall S. Blankenhorn was appointed acting Illinois transportation secretary in January 2015. As head of the Illinois Department of Transportation, he leads an agency of 13 offices and divisions that serve the transportation needs of Illinois across multiple modes, in rural, suburban and urban environments. At IDOT, Blankenhorn oversees a $2.8 billion operating budget that supports a work force of 5,200 employees, with annual oversight of more than $3.2 billion in capital projects.
Prior to his appointment, Blankenhorn was the executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, leading that agency since its inception in 2006. At CMAP, Blankenhorn oversaw transportation, land use, housing, economic development, environmental and other quality-of-life issues in the seven-county region of Northeastern Illinois.
Under his leadership, CMAP implemented GO TO 2040, the first truly comprehensive regional plan for the Chicago metropolitan area in more than a century. He worked closely with 284 municipalities and scores of stakeholder groups to put into action the plan’s strategies for aligning public policies and investments, seeking to maximize the benefit of the scarce resources in a region anticipated to add 2 million new residents over the next three decades.
His appointment as acting transportation secretary represents a return to IDOT, after having worked at the agency for 22 years. While at IDOT, Blankenhorn served in a number of key positions in both the policy and planning divisions, eventually rising to the bureau chief of Urban Program Planning, coordinating the activities of the state’s 14 metropolitan planning organizations. Blankenhorn was the point person for planning on a number of major infrastructure projects throughout Illinois, including the south extension of Interstate 355 in Will County, the new Mississippi River Bridge in Metro East, and the proposed South Suburban Airport in Chicago’s south suburbs.
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director J.M. “Jim” Schultz
Jim Schultz is acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, where he oversees the state’s overall efforts to drive economic development, attract and retain businesses, encourage capital investments and create jobs.
Schultz is the founder of Open Prairie, where he most recently served as managing partner responsible for the management of three multimillion-dollar private equity funds with investments in agriculture companies with disruptive technologies. Open Prairie is a premier, Midwest-based, private equity fund manager providing fund deployment, advisory and strategic planning since 1997.
A fifth-generation agriculture entrepreneur, Schultz has both a passion and understanding for building companies from the ground up — experiences gained from operational involvement with his family’s various international agri-businesses. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he worked with the Brazilian unit of his family’s soybean business and served on the board of the U.S. soybean operating company, J.M. Schultz Seed Company. As a contrarian investor, he purchased and subsequently managed more than 13,000 acres of Midwest farmland he acquired in the late 1980s during the bottom of the farmland crisis. He has carried those Midwest lessons and principles with him throughout his 30 year career as an adviser and investor.
Schultz has held numerous corporate governance roles, including chairman of the boards of Prime Banc Corporation, Compact Particle Acceleration Corporation, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and board memberships with Vestaron, and numerous portfolio investments. He also was a member of the Advisory Board to the Chicago Federal Reserve.
Schultz holds a bachelor of science degree in entrepreneurism from Southern Methodist University, a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University School of Law and an MBA degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Illinois Department of Public Health Outreach Manager Juana Ballesteros
Juana Ballesteros has 15 years of experience in community and public health practice in various, ethnically diverse Chicago communities addressing health disparities such as HIV/AIDS, prenatal and postnatal health, mental health, obesity, diabetes, and asthma.
She holds specific experience in development, implementation and evaluation of health education/promotion programming; community-based planning; community engagement and outreach; development of strategic relationships and collaborative partnerships with various stakeholders; coalition building; grant writing and management; fiscal planning and oversight; evaluation of collaborative projects as well as organizational strategic planning.
In her current capacity with the Illinois Department of Public Health as the Manager for Community Public Health Outreach, Ballesteros plans, directs and evaluates the implementation of outreach programs, creates policy on best practices for conducting effective outreach to diverse communities as well as review and recommend positions on related State and Federal legislation.
Ballesteros has working knowledge of community-based participatory research and has a genuine interest in reversing the impact of racial and ethnic health disparities. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (1999) and Master in Public Health (2005) both from the University of Illinois at Chicago.