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Leveraging Latino influence: why serving on boards and commissions matters

  ·  Martin V. Torres

If the 2012 elections were any indication, civically-engaged Latinos matter, especially in narrowly-contested races. As the Latino population continues to grow, how can Latinos continue to leverage their political power?

In Illinois, there are more than 300 state boards and commissions in operation. They are comprised of mostly unpaid, volunteers appointed by the governor.  Relying on individuals with expertise  in various professions, these entities are responsible for strategic planning, issuing guidance on federal grants, drafting policy recommendations, providing oversight in a variety of areas, and much more.  While data isn’t available on the participation rate of Latinos on state boards or commissions, it is widely acknowledged they and other minority groups lack representation at these advisory tables.

It is vital that Latinos actively seek out opportunities to fill vacant positions ranging from the Illinois Community College Board to the Illinois Gaming Board.  In addition to the issue-specific expertise that Latino applicants can bring to the table, they also offer a distinctive understanding of the issues, challenges, and barriers to service that minorities sometimes experience in their encounters with the state’s service delivery infrastructure.  More importantly, it is our belief that increasing diversity yields equity and opportunity. 

If you are looking for a way to combine your passion for public service with your professional expertise, please consider applying to serve on a state board or commission today.  Here’s how:

  1. Visit the state’s official appointments website: http://appointments.illinois.gov/.
  2. Click on the icon on the left hand side of the website that says, “View all Boards and Commissions.”
  3. Review information for boards that align with your interests and professional expertise.  When you click on the name of a state board, it will provide you with the following information:
    1. The function of the board
    2. The qualifications associated with the board
    3. Whether or not an appointment to the board requires Senate confirmation
    4. Whether or not those appointed receive compensation
    5. Whether there are vacancies on the board and who’s responsible for making the appointment (The Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President, etc)
  4. Once you have selected the board(s) that you wish to apply for, click on the icon on the left hand side of the website that says, “Nominate Yourself.”
  5. After you select the state board(s) that you wish to apply to, you will be asked to submit the following: 
    1. Basic contact information
    2. Demographic information
    3. Educational background
    4. Employment experience and professional qualifications
    5. Government affiliations and experience
    6. Interest and qualifications (2 essay questions, each with a 3,000 character response limit, or approximately 450-500 words)
  6. Please follow up with the governor’s office concerning your application 1-2 weeks after submitting your application via email at gov.appointments@illinois.gov.

As co-convener of the Illinois Latino Agenda, the largest coalition of Latino-led nonprofits in Illinois, the Latino Policy Forum is working with other civic leaders to recruit Latinos to serve on state boards and commissions.  At the moment, the Agenda is focusing efforts on the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Gaming Board, and others.

If you are interested in serving on one of these state boards or commissions, please review the criteria associated with it online and contact Alonzo Rivas (arivas@maldef.org), Midwest Regional Counsel at MALDEF, or Katya Nuques (knuques@enlacechicago.org), Associate Director at Enlace Chicago.

Posted In: Representation in Government, Strengthening Leadership