Who We Are

Senior Staff

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Christian Diaz

Executive Director

Christian grew up on the Northwest Side of Chicago in a Spanish-speaking home. He is a youth organizer with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, where he politicizes high school students to lobby for better schools. Christian graduated with a B.A. in Global Studies at Warren Wilson College in 2012. His first organizing campaign led him to recruit 300 volunteers to register more than 1200 Latino voters in Logan Square through the New Americans Democracy Project with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In his spare time, Christian writes creative non-fiction, calls out racism, looks super cute and whips his phantom-ponytail to filthy dance tracks. In 2013 Christian was elected “cutest pouty face of Logan Square” for the third consecutive year.

Jen Dean 

Director of Operations

Jen is the Operations Director at Chicago Votes, a non profit devoted to organizing and developing young leaders who focus on expanding voting rights and accessibility. Her primary job at Chicago Votes is to get youth both excited and involved in politics. Jen’s passion for human rights and systemic social change began where she grew up in Utica NY, which is home to one of the largest refugee resettlement communities in the US.  At 18, she moved to Tampa where she obtained a BA in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s in Sociology. She began organizing right away focusing on issues relevant to youth. During this time she became a founding member of STAND, an organization that aims to prevent genocide by getting students to organize, advocate, and educate folks on how to reach and hold elected officials accountable for legislative action. She is also a co-founder of Baby University in Tampa which is a program modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone. During graduate school she moved to Chicago to study the growing violence epidemic, which resulted in a published book on activism; which highlighted the value of social capital and collective efficacy in violence prevention efforts. After falling in love with Chicago she has since been a resident of the South Side and continues to mentor young people. When she is not organizing or keeping the office together, she is practicing yoga, chilling at “The Point”, cooking up something special or giving her dog Marley (named after Bob Marley) some lovin.


IMG_4445 (1)Rudy Garrett

Program Director

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.

 

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Derek Elliot Bagley

Development Director

Derek Elliott Bagley is a lifelong Chicagoan who’s family has lived in and around the Chicagoland area for over 100 years. Due to his strong ties to the city, Derek has devoted his intellectual and professional career to bettering the civic process in his home town. He holds a BA in Government from Skidmore College in upstate New York, and is currently a candidate for his MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University. On top of his academic pursuits, Derek is a seasoned veteran of the local non-profit, government, and political worlds, and has been spreading his message of fairer, balanced, and more effective civic action for the last 7 years. Recently, Derek was a Lead Field Organizer at Chicago Votes. Over his 4 month employment at the organization, his team registered 15,000 voters in Chicagoland – 1,100 of which Derek registered personally. He is thrilled to be serving in this new role as a member of Chicago Votes’ Board of Directors, because it allows him to continue his lifelong work of creating a more diverse, robust, and youthful voice in the city’s democratic process. Derek lives in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood with his partner Hayley Allison Barber, and dedicates much of his personal time to furthering artistic and creative pursuits throughout the Midwest.

 Our Action Fund

Board Of Directors

13221611_10101813155084495_158117334729045397_nAlex Sims

Alexandra believes that your birthplace and economic status should not disproportionately determine your life’s journey. Empowering Chicago’s communities can be the “great leveler” and she is impatient with the widespread acceptance of one’s social status at birth determining one’s success in life. The belief in the power of democracy and the commitment to advocating for the marginalized and undeserved has led Alexandra to create a way where none previously existed. While in at Northwestern University Alexandra was a co-founder of Promote 360 and the President of the Coalition of Colors. After graduating she moved to St. Louis MO to participate in the CORO fellowship program. Interested in where she could have the greatest impact on education Alexandra stayed in St. Louis to work as a Vice Principle for new school called, Jamaa Learning Center. It was then she realized that she could make a larger impact by influencing educational policy. She then took a role as the Regional Field Director for Obama for America and worked for President Obama for the next 3 years, bringing her back to Chicago.

11953591_10100568051881276_5740624233198052271_oBrian E. Sleet

Brian was born and raised in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood and is committed to his community and public service. In the tradition of President Obama’s often cited “Joshua Generation,” Sleet believes that those who gained opportunity from the civil rights struggle should repay society through public service. A lifelong resident of the 6th Ward, Sleet is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois, College of Law. He currently serves as the Chief of Staff to the Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer or the 6th Ward. Balancing the issues of community development, economic growth and city governance Brian is guided by the idea that working in the best interests of the people leads to the best government. Prior to that, he worked as Deputy District Administrator for the Second Congressional District of Illinois. Before going into the public sector, Sleet worked as a litigator in his own law firm, specializing in criminal defense and family law.

Displaying 042714_Group_Headshots_Chicago_CD_0676-Edit-2.jpgJoanna Klonsky

Joanna is a media and public relations consultant. With a background in public relations and political journalism, Joanna brings strategic insight into forging successful media and messaging campaigns. A Chicago native, Joanna has served as Communications Director on several high-profile political campaigns, both on a municipal and federal level. She was a senior writer and account executive at MK Communications. Joanna’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Newsweek, among other outlets.

11971_334600899976137_1628310893_nMatt Blizek

Matt managed his first campaign at the age of 19 while a student at the University of Iowa and has never stopped organizing. At 32, he is a nationally known progressive organizer with experience in field, fundraising, training and online organizing for numerous campaigns and organizations including the DNC, MoveOn.org, Russ Feingold, Jon Tester, Annette Taddeo, No on 1 Protect Maine Equality, Ilya Sheyman for Congress, Rebuild the Dream and Credo SuperPAC. From 2007 through 2011 he worked at Democracy for America, as the national training director & field director, organizing 87 trainings in 37 states and mobilizing DFA’s million-plus members to elect progressives at all levels of office. Matt is proudly serving his second term as a Board Member at Democratic GAIN, the premier organization for connecting talented people to campaigns and organizations in need of staff. He currently lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago and works as a Grassroots Campaign Director at MoveOn.org

erikaErika Wozniak

Erika Wozniak has been a Chicago Public School teacher since her graduation from DePaul University in 2004. She received her Masters in Science Education from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She sits on the State Educator and Preparation Licensure Board for the Illinois State Board of Education. She has been a fierce advocate for fair funding and education equality for all students in Chicago and a dedicated public servant for the past twelve years. Wozniak first began her work in the political arena in college and in recent years has been focused on local campaigns. She is a firm believer in quality public education for public good. Wozniak currently resides in Uptown with her husband, Brian.

Alex Han

Alex is a union organizer based in Chicago. He got his start in community organizing with New York ACORN in Brooklyn, New York, and since 2001 has helped tens of thousands of workers win a voice on the job with SEIU, both in Illinois and across the country. He is currently Director of Strategic Campaigns and Partnerships for SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana – the largest local union in the Midwest, representing over 90,000 healthcare and child care workers – where he works with allied unions and community organizations to build a stronger movement for social and economic justice.

garzaRyan Garza

A native Chicagoan, Ryan was born and raised on the far Southeast side of the city. After high school, he attended University of Wisconsin Madison where he majored in Political Science. He currently works for Google on their Gtech Ads team. Previously, Ryan was as a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher in Chicago Public Schools. Ryan has worked with various community organizations around education, labor rights and youth engagement.

 

Also, check out our Chicago Votes Education Fund Board Of Directors