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Thursday, April 22

10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. CST


Event Moderator Welcome

The Rev. Michel Clark, Assistant to the Bishop, Northern Illinois Synod, ELCA

Portrait of Michel ClarkPastor Clark grew up in the Quad-Cities, graduating from Augustana College in 1973 with a major in American Studies. From there, he went to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, graduating in 1977. While in seminary, Pr. Clark participated in the ecumenical IMPACT Forum, the forerunner of Lutheran Day.

His first call was to First Lutheran Church, Decatur, Illinois, where he served as the assistant pastor. In summer 1979, he was called to serve at First Lutheran Church in Sherrard, Illinois, a small-town, rural church. Pastor Clark also served on synodical committees and a task force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was member of the Board of Governors of the Western Region of LSSI.

Called to serve Grace Lutheran Church in Knoxville in 1985, he served there for 32 years, retiring in November 2017. While at Grace, he supervised three seminary interns, served as dean of the Southwest Conference, served on the Ministry Committee of the synod and later on the Synod Council of the Northern Illinois Synod.

In 2007, Pastor Clark began serving as a part-time assistant to the bishop of the Northern Illinois Synod, with responsibility for the West Conference. In March 2018, responsibility for serving the Southwest Conference was added to his portfolio, and he was elected to the Board of Trustees of LSSI’s Cornerstone Foundation and currently serves as its president.

Pastor Clark married Karen Carhart in 1976, and they have two children, Erin Clark Benedict, and her husband Nick, of Fond du lac Wisconsin, and Megan Clark of Chicago and one granddaughter, Eleanor. He and Karen reside in Geneseo, Illinois, and are members of First Lutheran Church, Geneseo.

What is Lutheran Day?

Joy Medrano, LSSI Advocacy Coordinator

Portrait of Joy MedranoJoy Medrano has been with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) since 2010. She is the manager for Lutheran Disaster Response Illinois, advocacy, and church engagement. She has held leadership roles in Illinois' Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and is the current chair for the Northeast Illinois Community Organizations Active in Disaster. She has served on and led several long-term recovery committees throughout Illinois. She is currently the interim regional Midwest coordinator for Lutheran Disaster Response (ELCA). In addition, Joy coordinates advocacy efforts for LSSI and works with congregations by engaging them in volunteer activity as well as coordinating in-kind donations. Joy lives in the Chicago area with her husband, two children, and her pug, Ollie.

Governor's Welcome

JB Pritzker, Governor of Illinois

Portrait of JB Pritzker, Governor of IllinoisGovernor JB Pritzker was sworn in as the 43rd governor of the state of Illinois on January 14, 2019. He immediately began working with Democrats and Republicans to accomplish one of the most ambitious and consequential legislative agendas in state history. During his first session, the governor passed a balanced budget with a bipartisan majority, making historic investments in education and human services, while restoring fiscal stability to Illinois. He also won bipartisan passage for legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis and for Rebuild Illinois, the largest investment in state history to upgrade roads, bridges, rail, broadband, and universities in every corner of the state.

The governor has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, raised the minimum wage to a living wage— making college more affordable for nearly 10,000 additional students—and advanced equal pay for women.

A national leader in early childhood education for over 20 years and having organized President Obama's White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, Governor Pritzker this year made childcare and preschool more affordable in Illinois for tens of thousands more families. He also partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Share our Strength to fight child poverty by expanding school breakfast programs in low income school districts across our state.

Before becoming governor, Pritzker founded 1871, the non-profit small business incubator in Chicago that has helped entrepreneurs create more than 11,000 jobs and more than 1,000 new companies. Since the creation of 1871, Chicago has been named one of the top ten technology startup hubs in the world, and 1871 was named the best incubator in the world. As governor, he has expanded support for new business incubators and cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of small businesses while incentivizing job creation and innovation. He also extended research and development tax credits to help manufacturing workers and businesses thrive, and he worked with the business community to create apprenticeship tax credits to promote job training.

The descendant of refugees, Governor Pritzker believes our state and our nation should welcome and protect its immigrant families and that we must fight against the wave of intolerance that has risen in recent years. Before becoming governor, he led the creation of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a nationally recognized institution where hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, police officers, and others learn to fight bigotry and hatred. As governor, he has built the most diverse cabinet and governor's office in Illinois history.

Governor Pritzker and First Lady MK Pritzker have been married for more than a quarter century, and they are the proud parents of two children.

What is Happening in Illinois Right Now?

Ralph Martire, Illinois Center for Tax and Budget Accountability

Executive Director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; and Arthur Rubloff Endowed Professor of Public Policy at Roosevelt University

Portrait of Ralph MartireRalph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA), a bipartisan 501(c)(3) think tank committed to ensuring that state, federal, and local workforce, education, fiscal, economic, and budget policies are fair and just and promote opportunity for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or income class. He is also the Rubloff Professor of Public Policy at Roosevelt University. During his time at CTBA, Ralph has helped obtain numerous legislative successes, including passage of the Evidence-Based Model of Education Funding in FY2018, a state Earned Income Tax Credit, creation of a bipartisan legislative task force to integrate workforce and economic development policies, passage of the 2011 Temporary Tax Increases, corporate accountability legislation that requires public reporting of economic development benefits created through receipt of tax breaks and other subsidies, and decoupling Illinois tax policy from both the federal bonus depreciation rules and the federal repeal of the estate tax.

In 2018, Ralph was appointed to serve on the legislatively established "Professional Review Panel," charged with monitoring the implementation of Illinois' new evidence-based school funding formula. He was also appointed to the Transition Team of Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker. In 2011–2013, Ralph served as a full voting commissioner on the Congressionally-established "Equity and Excellence in Education Commission," which was housed in the Federal Department of Education's Civil Rights Division. In addition to his professorship at Roosevelt University, he has taught fiscal policy seminars and education finance courses for various universities and the International Fulbright Scholar Program.

Ralph has received numerous awards for his work on education policy reform, including being named River Forest's Co-Villager of the Year by the Wednesday Journal for his work promoting equity in District 90; the 2007 Champion of Freedom Award, presented by the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to individuals whose professional work embodies Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to equal educational opportunities; and the Ben C. Hubbard Leadership Award given by Illinois State University to individuals who have greatly benefited education in Illinois. He also received the Adlai Stevenson Award for Public Service presented by the American Society for Public Administration to honor one individual with a connection to the Chicago area that has made outstanding contributions to government and public administration over an extended period of time. Ralph is also a regular columnist on education, fiscal, and economic policy for the State Journal Register, the Daily Herald, and The News Gazette.

He received his BA in history with highest honors from Indiana University and his JD from the University of Michigan.

Why Your Voice Matters

Mark Stutrud, President and CEO, LSSI

Portrait of Mark StutrudMark A. Stutrud joined Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) as president and CEO in October 2014. Founded in 1867, LSSI is a statewide, nonprofit social service organization of the three Illinois synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). LSSI is one of the largest statewide providers of social services in Illinois and last year served nearly 44,000 people at over 50 sites across the state.

Prior to joining LSSI, Mark served for 10 years as President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan (now known as Samaritas). His past experience also includes Senior Executive of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota and Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services at Allina Health System in Minneapolis, Minn.

Over the last 40 years, Mark has significant experience from the provider side of Health and Human Services, including leadership within the sector. His expertise spans nonprofit, for-profit, and government agencies/organizations, including behavioral health, managed care, immigration/refugees, child welfare, disabilities, corrections, and senior living/supports.

Paul Simon Award

Presented by Mark Stutrud to State Representative Robyn Gabel

Previous General Assembly (101st)
18th District; April 2010–Present

Portrait of Robyn Gabel Committee assignments: Appropriations-Human Services (Chairperson); Energy and Environment (Vice-Chairperson); Insurance; Museums, Arts, and Cultural Enhancement; Medicaid and Managed Care Subcommittee (Sub-Chairperson); Wages and Rates Subcommittee.

Throughout her career, Illinois Representative Robyn Gabel has maintained a strong commitment to serving the people of Illinois as an advocate for women, children, and families. She served as Executive Director of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy organization, from 1988 to 2010 and previously worked as legislative aid to Alderman (now Congressman) Luis Gutierrez.

Her legislative priorities include affordable and accessible health care, environment and sustainability, education, and economic development. She has a B.A. from Beloit College, an M.S.P.H. from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and an M.J. in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago. She has one daughter, Lilah.

11:10-11:25 BREAK


Panel Discussion: How to Engage Your Legislators

Monique B. Jones, President and CEO, Forefront (Panel Moderator)
State Representative Tom Demmer
State Representative Robyn Gabel

Portrait of Monique B. Jones Monique B. Jones, LCSW, is a visionary leader with an extensive background in mental health, violence prevention, philanthropy, and gender and racial equity. With over 20 years of experience, her civic interests span the intersections where the lives of those most vulnerable fall victim to structural oppression and inequity. Monique most recently served as president and CEO at the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), making her the second CEO and first African American since its founding in 1986. During her tenure, she was successful in diversifying the board, staff, and community investments to reflect the voices of the community.

Previous to ECF, Monique served as director of programs for the Chicago Foundation for Women, leading the establishment of the 100% Project for gender equity. She also served as the Director of Violence Prevention for the Cook County Department of Public Health and Clinical Director for the Jane Addams Hull House Association. Monique is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a BA in social work and the University of Texas at Austin with an MS in Social Work. She completed the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management executive program at the Harvard School of Business. In her self-care moments, she enjoys running with her Peloton Tread family, golfing, sewing, and showing appreciation for life with her husband, daughter, and Yorkie in Chicago.

Representative Tom Demmer (R), 90th District

Portrait of Tom Demmer Tom Demmer is State Representative for the 90th District in the Illinois House of Representatives. The 90th District includes parts of DeKalb, LaSalle, Lee, and Ogle Counties in north central Illinois. He is the Deputy House Republican Leader and serves on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). As a legislator, Tom serves on several healthcare and education committees and is a strong voice for transparency, reform, and fiscal responsibility.

Tom is also Director of Innovation & Strategy at KSB Hospital, a not-for-profit community hospital with locations in Lee and Ogle Counties. He is a member of the senior leadership team and works to set system strategy and meet organizational goals.

Tom graduated from the University of Dayton and previously worked as a White House Intern in the Office of the Vice President of the United States. Prior to taking his seat in the General Assembly, Tom served on the Lee County Board.

Tom is a 2016 Henry W. Toll Fellow with the Council of State Governments. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Preservation Foundation. He is a member of St. Anne Parish, the Dixon Rotary Club, the Knights of Columbus, and he is a volunteer teacher with Junior Achievement. Tom and his wife, Rebecca, live in Dixon, and together they are raising their family.

LSSI Program Highlight