Staff and Board

Senior Staff

Stevie Valles

Executive Director

Stevie grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio but has lived all over the place – Virginia, Alabama, Washington DC, Dallas, Austin, and now Chicago. Even though he isn’t from the “Windy City”, he often says he got here as soon as he could. A graduate of Oakwood University with a Bachelors in Social Work, Stevie has committed his entire career to making sure all people have a voice and are welcomed as equals. Stevie joins the Chicago Votes family after working as the National Campaigns Director for the Alliance for Youth Action (formerly the Bus Federation). In this role he coordinated HUGE projects including National Voter Registration Day, which resulted in 777,321 new registered voters in 2017, and the American Voter Guide project. In addition to this experience he has worked in the United States Senate, the Texas Legislature and on a slew of campaigns ranging from presidential, gubernatorial, and affordable housing. Stevie loves music, dogs, writing, singing, and most of all playing basketball.


IMG_4445 (1)Rudy Garrett

Deputy Director

Programs & Development

A Hoosier native, Rudy graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in political science and international studies. She moved to Chicago in August of 2013 to attend culinary school, but found her inner activist instead. She  completed the Chicago Votes Winter internship program in late winter/ early spring of 2014. After working at a law firm in the loop, she took a job as a Chicago Votes Field Organizer during the summer/ fall voter registration project and has been working with the organization ever since. Rudy is excited to show young Chicagoans that they can make a difference in their city and encourage the millennial generation to take an active role in the political system.

Jen Dean 

Deputy Director

Policy, Operations, & Culture

Jen grew up in Utica, NY which is the second largest political refugee resettlement community in the US.  Jen’s passion is to cultivate new social justice organizations which include STAND, an organization that aims to prevent genocide and Baby University which is designed to reduce infant mortality. During graduate school, she moved to Chicago to study violence prevention efforts, which resulted in a publication on activism highlighting the value of social capital and collective efficacy. While at Chicago Votes she has created and distributed over 250,000 voter guides that include youth-focused issue stances from candidates.  Jen is responsible for the citywide “Parade To The Polls” and is currently running Cook County Jail Votes, conducting voter registration drives making sure all eligible voters in the jail have a voice during elections. Working with coalition partners she drafted HB4469 that requires voting access in jails and will ensure that individuals released from prisons know their voting rights. Some of the campaigns she has worked on through Chicago Votes include Automatic Voter Registration, Fight for $15, and the Stop Act. She is a board member for Chasing 23 an organization that mentors South Side youth and Bring Your Bag Chicago.


Casimiro De Jesus Peña

Development Associate







Erica Nanton

Community Engagement Manager

Erica is a teacher, organizer and mentor. Erica’s organizing work includes the fight to increase the Cook County minimum wage to $15 through the fight for The Responsible Business act in the Chicago City Commission. She has marched with a group of impacted Illinois residents to the Illinois state Capitol from Chicago on foot for 15 days!! The 200 MILE MARCH was for a People & Planet budget during the 2016 budget crisis. Erica is currently organizing her community and the South Side region of Chicago to bring an end to poverty and systemic racism. Erica is an advocate to keep public schools open in Englewood and has led anti-violence marches across the US.



Ethan Viets- Van Lear

Community Engagement Manager

Ethan Viets-VanLear is a poet, organizer, abolitionist and creative. He has a talent for restorative justice and gift to bring healing in circumstances of trauma. He is active in many groups that focus on community, leadership and justice including Circles and CiphersKnow Your Rights Project and was appointed to the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission as a Youth Commissioner. Ethan is a  community leader in Chicago but also has had international influence as he testified before the UN Convention Against Torture in Geneva.




Kemdah Stroud


Kemdah Stroud is a Chicago based community organizer curating large-scale activation under the pseudonym Aqua Vitae. She uses her backgrounds in health, publicity and civic engagement to optimize effectivity. Her mission is to bring partners together to optimize efficacy and has done so with initiatives such as Parade to the Polls™ and Thankful for Chicago, and has aided organizations such as Warner Music Group, SocialWorks, SaveMoneySaveLife and the Chicago Park District. Kemdah is currently a senior studying neuroscience at DePaul University, focusing her research at the intersectionality of music and neuropsychology. She is at the forefront of a new paradigm: using social influence to drive social reform.



Plus a squad of 6 Democracy Corps Fellows, 4 Interns, and 200+ Alumni.


Chicago Votes Action Fund

Board Of Directors

Alex Sims

Board President

CEO of APS and Associates.






Joanna Klonsky

Board Secretary

CEO of Joanna Klonsky Communication Strategies.




Matt Blizek

Board Director

Electoral Field Director at




Erika Wozniak

Board Director

Chicago Public School Teacher, Delegate with the Chicago Teachers Union





Chakena Sims

Board Vice President

 JB Pritzker for Governor




Ramsin Canon

Board Director

Principal Attorney at Canon Law Group



Meet the Chicago Votes Education Fund Board of Directors