City Club of Chicago: Diversity & Fairness in the City of Chicago Contract Awards

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Ald. Patrick O'Connor, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, Ald. Gilbert Villegas and Rosemary Swierk during the Diversity & Fairness in the City of Chicago Contract Awards panel at the City Club of Chicago, May 1, 2018 (City Club of Chicago)

May 1, 2018

Diversity & Fairness in the City of Chicago Contract Awards – moderated by Rosemary Swierk – Hon. Patrick O’Connor, Hon. Roderick Sawyer, Hon. Gilbert Villegas

Hon. Patrick O’Connor

Patrick J. O’Connor has been fighting for the people of Chicago for over 30 years as Alderman of the 40th Ward, representing the city’s 40th Ward in the City Council since 1983.

During his time in City Council, Pat has held numerous leadership positions. For over 20 years, O’Connor served as the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Child Development, where he worked on Chicago’s public school reform movement. Early on O’Connor recognized the relationship between quality public education and the economic development of the City.

O’Connor was one of the founding members of the National League of Cities Institute on Youth Education and Families, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Pat later served as Chairman of Traffic Control and Safety from 2008 – 2011. In 2011, O’Connor became Chairman of the newly created Workforce Development and Audit Committee, focusing its efforts on the city’s labor force and regulations affecting labor. This committee deals with oversight of the numerous workforce issues which exist within the City, working to create a more efficient and cost effective city government.

He also serves as vice-chair for the Committee on Finance and is an active member of the Aviation, Budget and Government Operations, Education and Child Development, and Rules and Ethics Committees. O’Connor believes that focusing on economic development, jobs, education, infrastructure, and health care promotes not only the development and health of the City of Chicago, but also ensures that every citizen has the ability to provide for their family and maintain a great quality of life.

O’Connor, a lifelong resident of the 40th Ward, graduated from Mather High School in Chicago and earned his B.A. and law degrees from Loyola University of Chicago. He is the proud husband of Barbara; father of five children, and four grandchildren. He is integrally engaged in his neighborhood, church, civic and community organizations and activities.

Hon. Roderick T. Sawyer

Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer was sworn in as Alderman of the 6th Ward in May of 2011. Chicago’s 6th Ward represents the Chatham, Chesterfield, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Park Manor and Auburn-Gresham neighborhoods. In March of 2012 he also became the Democratic Committeeman of the 6th Ward, which is a part of the Cook County Democratic Party.

Alderman Sawyer, who was re-elected in February, 2015 presides as Chairman of the City Council Black Caucus is an active member of the City Council Committees on Education and Child Development, Human Relations, License and Consumer Protection, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation (Vice-Chairman), Rules and Ethics, Finance and Budget and Government Operations. Alderman Sawyer prides himself on being independent and working for what is in the best interest of his community.

Alderman Sawyer practiced law at the Law Office of Roderick T. Sawyer where he became an expert at licensing issues. Alderman Sawyer uses his legal expertise to promote economic development in his community and to combat problem businesses.

Presently, Alderman Sawyer is on the Board of Directors of the South Shore Drill Team, eta Creative Arts Foundation, Meyering Park Advisory Council and Board of Trustees at St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church. Since his election in 2001, Alderman Sawyer has served on McDade Classical School’s Local School Council as a member and former Chairman. Every year he co-chairs a fundraiser, which raises monies for a scholarship fund that provides financial assistance for disadvantaged African-Americans who attend his high school alma mater.

In 1981, he graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep and four years later, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance from DePaul University. He received a Juris Doctorate from IIT-Chicago Kent College of Law in 1990 and was admitted to the Illinois State Bar in the same year.

Hon. Gilbert Villegas

Alderman Gilbert Villegas has spent his entire career serving others. Since being honorably discharged from the Marines, he has served in government, non-profits, and for profit companies, each time successfully bringing new opportunities to businesses and employees.

Since being elected in 2015 to the Chicago’s City Council, Alderman Villegas has introduced and passed legislation that focuses on providing opportunities for Minority, Women and Veteran Owned businesses. Most recently, Alderman Villegas led the charge to ensure that with the passage of the $8.5 billion dollar O’Hare modernization plan included an Oversight Commission that combines the efforts of the Latino Caucus and Black Caucus to ensure hiring practices represent the diversity of Chicago.

Alderman Villegas currently serves as the Chairman of both the Latino and Veteran Caucuses. In these roles, he has ensured that both communities are represented within the City through employment and contractual opportunities. Alderman Villegas created the first municipal Veteran Caucus in the United States and has recently worked with his colleagues to create a Veteran Business Enterprise program to offer the same bid incentives previously offered to Minority and Woman owned businesses.

Alderman Villegas served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Business and Workforce Diversity at the Illinois Department of Transportation,ensuring minority owned businesses were able to participate in the $2.2 billion dollar infrastructure program. As the Deputy Director he oversaw two departments: the Bureaus of Small Business Enterprises and the statewide District Equal Employment Opportunity Contract Compliance Officers.

Alderman Villegas is a U.S. Marine, and served during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Alderman Villegas was assigned to the 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Missile (LAAM) Battalion in Yuma, Arizona prior to his deployment. After being honorably discharged, heattended Northeastern Illinois University where he studied Political Science.

Alderman Villegas currently represents the 36th Ward, which is located on the City’s Northwest Side encompassing the diverse neighborhoods of Belmont Cragin, Dunning – Schorsch Village, Hermosa, Montclare, and Portage Park. He sits on six committees: Aviation, Rules and Ethics, Economic, Capital and Technology Development, Health and Environmental Protection, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety, and Transportation and Public Way.

Rosemary Swierk

Rosemary Swierk is founder and president of Direct Steel and Construction, a general contracting and construction management firm. Swierk holds a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University, a Dartmouth “Tuck” Executive Degree and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Certificate. She has decades of experience in real estate development and construction. Additionally, she contributes her time in several community initiatives.

Swierk has received recognition for her accomplishments from many organizations including Manufacturers, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Today’s Chicago Woman magazine, Athena International, Small Business Administration and theChicago Sun-Times. Swierk is also the recipient of the 28th annual Entrepreneur of the Year award from the national Women’s Business Development Center. Additionally, she is a State of Illinois appointee to the Small Business Development Center advisory board.

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