Chicago Fed Advisory Council
About the Council

The Advisory Council on Small Business, Community and Economic Development, Agriculture and Labor comprises diverse leaders who are experts in a broad range of industries or come from organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Council members advise Bank leadership about current economic conditions and emerging issues in their industries and communities. These discussions help inform Fed leadership who then contribute to national monetary policy decisions.

Map of Council Member Locations

A map of the 7th Federal Reserve District showing the locations of members of the Chicago Fed's Advisory Council on Small Business, Community and Economic Development, Agriculture and Labor.

Community and Economic Development Sub-Council

Marie Berry
Director of Community Economic Development
Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
Verona, WI
Marie Barry is the Director of Community Economic Development at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative where she leads RWHC’s efforts to utilize one of rural communities’ greatest assets – their hospitals – as a driver of economic development. Barry previously worked for two senators in the Wisconsin legislature and successfully shepherded bipartisan bills from drafting to being signed into law, including during split party control of the legislative and executive branch. She has an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison and a graduate degree in Community and Economic Development from Pennsylvania State University.

Lindsay Blumer
President & CEO
WRTP | Big Step
Milwaukee, WI
Lindsay Blumer is the President & CEO at WRTP | BIG STEP, a workforce intermediary based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that connects traditionally disenfranchised people to quality career opportunities. Blumer has over 20 years’ experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and innovation. Previously, Blumer has served as a community fellow with the United Way of America, in state government advising and developing advocacy strategies and policy, as Assistant Dean at Ripon College, as the executive director of a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization, and in developing entrepreneurial pathways for Marquette University students.

Sharon Bush
Grand Victoria Foundation
Chicago, IL
Sharon Bush is the President of Grand Victoria Foundation and is only the second person to lead the Foundation in its 20-year history. Bush is a recognized leader who strongly values the economic and social contributions of the nonprofit sector. Throughout her career she has worked to ensure that the sector is strong, equitable, sustainable, and highly capable of serving individuals and families throughout the Chicago region. She has launched, led, and participated in innovative collaborations that have resulted in thousands of people securing employment and millions of dollars to support the regional workforce system.

Jonathan Chapparo
Head of Chicago & Executive Director of Innovation Implementation
Chicago, IL
Jonathan Chapparo is the Executive Director of Innovation & Head of Chicago for Braven, a national organization fueling upward economic mobility for first-generation, Pell-eligible college students. Chapparo manages strategy, program implementation, and partnerships with a range of educational institutions and employers. He is a 2017 Surge Institute Fellow, 2018 Ricardo Salinas Scholar with the Aspen Institute’s Socrates Program, and a 2020 Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leader. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, a master’s in teaching from Dominican University, and is pursuing an executive MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Kristin Faust
Executive Director
Illinois Housing Development Authority
Chicago, IL
Kristin Faust was appointed Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority in November 2019. As the state’s chief housing official, she leads IHDA’s wide-ranging efforts to finance the creation and preservation of affordable housing throughout Illinois. She has held senior leadership positions in the public, private and nonprofit sectors for 30+ years, previously serving as President of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Chief Credit Officer at Partners for the Common Good, and President of the Enterprise Community Loan Fund. She earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.

Roberto Gallardo
Purdue Center for Regional Development
West Lafayette, IN
Roberto Gallardo is Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the past seventeen years conducting local & regional community economic development. He has authored articles and reports on rural trends, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications for community economic development. He is the author of “Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age & Rural Communities”, which highlights a 21st century community development model that helps rural communities transition to and prosper in the digital age. He holds a master's in economic development and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration.

George Guy
Fort Wayne Housing Authority
Fort Wayne, IN
George Guy is the Executive Director and CEO of the Fort Wayne (IN) Housing Authority. He has spent over 25 years helping build communities, and has been involved in mixed-finance, multi-family and permanent supportive housing developments in Indiana and Illinois. He has expanded affordable housing for veterans, youth aging out of foster care, and other vulnerable community members. Guy serves on the boards of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis Affordable Housing Advisory Council; the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association; the Fort Wayne Urban League; and United Way of Allen County.

Darlene Hightower
President and CEO
Metropolitan Planning Council
Chicago, IL
Darlene Oliver Hightower, J.D., is President and CEO of Metropolitan Planning Council, an independent nonpartisan regional planning organization. Throughout her career, Hightower has been a tireless advocate for equity. Previously, she served as Vice President, Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center. Hightower also led the development of West Side United, a cross-sector, collaborative aimed at improving health and economic vitality on Chicago’s West Side. In recognition of her leadership in health equity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hightower was named as a U.S. News and World Report Health Care Hero in 2020.

George Hinton
George Hinton
Community Relations-Social Development Commission
Milwaukee, WI

Ruth Johnson
Public Policy Director
Community Development Advocates of Detroit
Warren, MI
Ruth Johnson is the Public Policy Director at Community Development Associates of Detroit. Johnson has a long track record of working with underserved communities, including people with disabilities, and people with language and literacy differences. As part of her work, she connects nonprofit groups and for-profit enterprises to local, state and national partners. Johnson draws on her experience practicing law for twelve years, serving in several nonprofit executive positions, operating her own consulting business, and volunteering in schools, in her community and in her church.

Seung Kim
Vice President of
Economic Development Programs
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Chicago, IL
Seung Kim is Senior Vice President at LISC and leads the National Programs unit including Health, Economic Development, Child Care & Early Learning, Safety & Justice and Sports & Recreation. She guides these programs in delivering technical and financial resources, thought leadership, program innovation and scaling, and external partnerships with an aim to enhance LISC’s impact in communities.

Robert McGhee
Senior Vice President
Community Economic Development Market Manager, Fifth Third Bank
Chicago, IL
Robert (Rob) V. McGhee serves as Senior Vice President, Community & Economic Development Market Manager, for Fifth Third Bank. He leads the Bank’s Community Economic Development program for the Chicago region and oversees the Bank’s regional compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. McGhee has nearly three decades of community development and banking experience, with prior leadership roles with U.S Bank and Citigroup. He is a board of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, and an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. McGhee received a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Robert Palmer
General Counsel and Director of
Government Affairs
Iowa League of Cities
West Des Moines, IA
Robert Palmer is General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the Iowa League of Cities, a statewide association representing more than 870 cities in Iowa. In his free time Palmer is President of the West Des Moines Community Foundation, Chair of the Drake College of Arts & Sciences National Advisory Council, and a board member of the Drake Law School Alumni Engagement Board, the Iowa Society of Association Executives, and the Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy. He lives in West Des Moines with his wife and three boys.

Edgar Ramirez
President and CEO
Chicago Commons
Chicago, IL
Edgar Ramirez is the President and CEO of Chicago Commons. A community organizer in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, Ramirez led significant campaigns at Enlace Chicago and Erie Neighborhood House. Ramirez serves on the boards of Elevate Energy, Social Current, and the Latino Policy Forum and Mayor Lightfoot’s Every Child Ready to Learn and ad-hoc committees for reopening early education centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramirez is a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow (2016), has a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University, a master’s degree in Policy Analysis and Community Organizing from the University of Chicago, and a certificate from Harvard Business School.

Small Business, Agriculture and Labor Sub-Council

Geri Aglipay
Entrepreneurship Subject Matter Expert
Presidential Appointee
Skokie, IL
Geri Aglipay possesses over 20 years of experience in workforce development, entrepreneurship, and economic development. With sharp understanding how legislative and administrative policies affect small businesses, she has a record of coalition-building across public, private and non-profit sectors to build ecosystems for collective impact. She advances data-driven innovation and investments for equity and economic prosperity, especially for socioeconomically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Aglipay has led small business interests on: anti-predatory lending policies; Community Reinvestment Act rules; and, spearheaded the creation of a metrics toolkit assessing small business service impact in underserved areas, now adapted nationwide.

Sharon Bard
Terra Economics
Fairmount, IL
Sharon Bard is Principal with Terra Economics and has over 25 years of experience working with agricultural lenders, agribusinesses, non-profits, farmers and ranchers. As a consultant, Bard leads research and stakeholder engagement to create sustainable economic and environmental outcomes for agricultural industry participants. Bard has authored peer-reviewed journal articles, research and industry reports, and presented her research globally. Her expertise includes agricultural finance, risk assessment, corporate ESG, and agricultural resource management. Bard is a member of Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources Steering Committee. She received her PhD in agricultural economics from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and lives on an Illinois farm.

Brian Calley
President and CEO
Small Business Association of Michigan
Portland, MI
Brian Calley is the CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan. He also serves as a director of a community bank, and Trustee of Oakland University. Calley was Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor from 2011-2018. Prior to that, Calley served in the Michigan House of Representatives, on the Ionia County Commission, and worked over a decade in community banking. He sits on various boards, including Special Olympics Michigan, Sparrow Health System, Disability Rights Michigan, and the Autism Alliance of Michigan. He holds a BA from Michigan State University, an MBA from Grand Valley State University, and an MPA from Harvard University.

Sherry Early-Aden
Executive Director
Incremental Development Alliance
Fort Wayne, IN
Sherry Early-Aden is the Executive Director of Incremental Development (IncDev). In her role, Early-Aden is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the organization, providing executive direction of all program strategy, compliance, quality assurance, and program efficiency. She has over twenty years of direct experience working in the field of community and economic development. Prior to joining IncDev, Early-Aden served as the Vice President of Operations and Community Economic Development for Brightpoint, a community action agency in northeast Indiana.

Pamela Fendt
Research Director
Wisconsin Laborers’ Union (Laborers’ International Union of North America)
Wauwatosa, WI
Pam Fendt is the research director for the Great Lakes Region Organizing Committee of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) in Wisconsin. She conducts research to advance organizing and union density in the construction industry. Previously, Fendt worked for the Good Jobs & Livable Neighborhoods Coalition in Milwaukee and was a research policy analyst at the UW Milwaukee Center for Economic Development. Fendt has a BA in English and a MS in Urban Studies from UW Milwaukee. She is in her 3rd term as President of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Craig Freedman
Freedman Seating Company
Chicago, IL
Craig Freedman is the CEO of Freedman Seating Company (FSC), a Chicago based small business and industry leader providing seating solutions to the bus, rail, marine and light truck industries. Located in Chicago’s West Humboldt/Austin neighborhoods, FSC is proud of its over 600 employees. Freedman maintains a strong presence in the community and is passionate about providing opportunity to underserved residents. He is especially active in helping young people train in manufacturing disciplines and supports shadowing and internship programs for area high schools.

Jason Hester
Greater Columbus Indiana Economic Development Corporation
Columbus, IN
Jason Hester’s economic development career spans 22 years in the Hoosier state, and collaborative efforts have resulted in a portfolio of projects exceeding $4.0 billion in new capital investments. He has served in Columbus, Indiana, since August 2010, and prior, Jason was Central Region Director for the Indiana EDC along with roles in Kokomo and Elwood, Indiana. Jason earned an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and a B.A. degree with honors from Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK), majoring in International Community Development. In 2004 he earned the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation by the International Economic Development Council.

Mary Isbister
GenMet Corporation
Mequon, WI
Mary Isbister is the owner of GenMet Corp., a manufacturing company located in Wisconsin. Isbister began her career at Pfizer, Inc. as a medicinal chemist. Isbister currently chairs the Board of MxD -the Digital Manufacturing USA Institute and is Vice Chair of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Advisory Council. Isbister served two terms as a member of the US Manufacturing Council reporting to the Secretary of Commerce, and also chaired Wisconsin’s State Workforce Board. Isbister is passionate about STEM education and ensuring that manufacturing continues to be a pillar of the U.S. economy.

Paul Jones
Small Business Network Director
Invest Detroit
Birmingham, MI
Paul Jones currently serves as the Business Support Network Director, which is established as an office inside Invest Detroit (a local Detroit based Community Financial Development Institution). As Business Support Network Director, Mr. Jones convenes various constituent groups to identify needs or support gaps in existing programs, mobilize the network of business support organizations (BSOs) for quick execution, and engage with business owners to ensure the network of support is known and relevant to their needs. Paul works with Invest Detroit and NEI leadership to ensure the BSOs and the small businesses they serve are equipped to meet their needs.

Paul, a native Detroiter, served as the executive director of the Detroit site of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. In this role, he focused on identifying, attracting, and organizing community resources to support the program’s small business scholar and alumni base. Prior to Goldman Sachs, he founded TIVA Capital Advisors, a virtual CFO company that focuses on data analytics, financial literacy and value extraction. Jones was also the co-founder and CEO of IPX EG International, a telecom company headquartered in West Africa that under his leadership grew from a startup to $20M in annual revenue with over 100 employees.

Bryon Kirwan
Central National Economist
United States Department of Agriculture
Seymour, IL
Bryon Kirwan is an active farmer in Central Illinois, and an economist for USDA/NRCS. Bryon has worked as an agricultural professional for over 40 years. His current work emphasis includes production and management economics, cover crops, water quality, and nitrogen management. His professional focus has been on applied research. Kirwan and his family have owned, operated, and expanded a row crop farming operation since 1991. Kirwan holds a BS in Agriculture from Western Illinois University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from University of Illinois, and an MBA from Illinois State University.

Kyle McMahon
Founder & CEO
Tractor Zoom
Waukee, IA
Kyle McMahon is the founder and CEO of Tractor Zoom, a leading farm equipment data and analytics software platform in North America. In this capacity, he is focused on overall strategic direction, investor relations and hiring great people to fuel growth. Kyle is a 3rd generation entrepreneur and actively farms in southern Iowa. Prior to starting Tractor Zoom, he was the Director of Acquisitions for Summit Agricultural Group where he led a team to buy and sell farmland for private equity funds. Kyle graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.

Kimberly Rudd
President and Senior Counselor
Rudd Resources, LLC
Chicago, IL
Kimberley Rudd is president of Rudd Resources LLC, a communications firm that handles strategic planning, media relations, branding, and content development. Clients include Elevated Chicago, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, the University of Chicago and the Federal Bar Association – Chicago Chapter. She also led marketing and development for KABOOM, helped launch the Chicago Park District’s marketing department, and developed and managed PR programs for Burrell Public Relations. Kim is a graduate of Northwestern University, and a board member of the Publicity Club of Chicago and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Chicago Metropolitan Chapter.

Jean Marie Thiel
President and CEO
Belonger Corporation
West Bend, WI
Jean Marie Thiel is President of Belonger Corporation, a specialty trades mechanical contracting company. Thiel has over 33 years of experience in the construction and services industry and has executed work for clients like the Department of Defense, Air Force Medical Command, and Harley Davidson. Thiel has participated in numerous round tables pertaining to small business, economic development, and advocacy, including the President Obama Small Business Round Table Summit (2009), President Bush Small Business Week (2005), SBA sponsored Small Business Workshops, and Tribal/ Native Advisory Councils. Thiel is a recipient of numerous regional and national business awards.

Don Villar
Secretary and Treasurer
Chicago Federation of Labor
Chicago, IL
Don Villar is the current Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). Prior to his election to the CFL in 2018, Villar was President of NABET-CWA Local 41. For nearly 25 years, Villar was a news writer/producer at WLS-TV/ABC7. Villar studied at Loyola University of Chicago Law School, becoming a licensed attorney in 2012. He practiced civil rights law at a small law firm. Villar received his Bachelor of Liberal Arts & Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Born in the Philippines, Villar immigrated to Chicago in 1973. Villar and his wife live in the West Loop.

Charlie Wishman
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Des Moines, IA
Charlie Wishman is the President of the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. He is a member of AFT Local 716, and former member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Wishman has served on many boards and commissions, including the Iowa Workers Compensation Advisory Committee, the board and executive council of United Way of Central Iowa, Local Union Community Charities, and the Iowa Workforce Development board.

Brandon Zick
Chief Investment Officer
Ceres Partners, LLC
Edwardsburg, MI
Brandon Zick serves as Chief Investment Officer of Ceres Partners managing both farmland investment and agribusiness private equity strategies and has presided over more than $1 billion of investments in U.S. farmland. Prior to joining Ceres, he served as Vice President of Strategic Acquisitions at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, a senior associate of investor relations at Morgan Stanley, and as a finance associate at Lehman Brothers. Zick graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.B.A. in finance and is a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst. He grew up on a family dairy and crop farm in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The Fed has access to numerous data resources, but data alone can’t tell the full story of the state of the economy. Our council members offer a range of timely, “boots on the ground” perspectives that help us understand how people and businesses are doing across our District. We use that information to guide our policy making.”
—Anna Paulson, Executive Vice President and Director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

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