MPC Welcomes New Board Chair and Five Board of Governors Members - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC Welcomes New Board Chair and Five Board of Governors Members

MPC is thrilled to announce our new Board Chair, Melissa Washington, and five new members Ciere Boatright, Janet Chess, Nedra Sims Fears, Manny Flores, and Daryl Newell! 

CHICAGO, IL – With optimism about its evolution as a policy change-maker informed by an inclusive mix of leaders, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) Board of Governors has elected a new Board Chair, Melissa Washington, and five new members.

In 2021, the Metropolitan Planning Council will focus on collaborative research, bold policy recommendations, and consultative community partnerships to shape an equitable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

MPC’s Board of Governors, comprised of senior business and civic leaders, is a vital part of moving this ambitious agenda forward. A new Governance Committee, co-chaired by MPC Executive Committee members, Julian Posada and Matt Reilein, guided the selection of Officers and members. 

Melissa Washington, Senior Vice President, Government & External Affairs, ComEd

Melissa Washington

MPC is proud to announce Melissa Washington as its Board Chair for 2021-2022. Melissa Washington leads legislative affairs, external affairs, large customer services, and economic development for ComEd. She also oversees ComEd's relationships with civic and charitable organizations. Earlier she held various roles at ComEd and Exelon, including Vice President of Corporate Affairs in D.C., and Director of Investor Relations.

After joining MPC's Board in 2017, Melissa dove into advising MPC staff on our Cost of Segregation research and Our Equitable Future Roadmap, an area of personal passion. She has represented the organization with integrity on the Executive and Governance Committees. 

In addition to her dedication to MPC, as a Board Members of Chicago Children's Advocacy Center, and as a Fellow and Board member for Leadership Greater Chicago, Melissa is highly regarded by leaders across government corporations, and communities.

She grew up in Joliet, previously resided in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and now lives in Bolingbrook. Understanding how important it is to share power with local communities at this time of transformation, Melissa will help us along our path to becoming an antiracist organization and will deploy her extensive network to expand MPC’s impact.

MPC is excited to welcome the following five people to our Board of Governors for a 2021-2023 term:

Ciere Boatright, VP, Real Estate Development & Inclusion, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives

Ciere Boatright

As the Vice President for Real Estate Development and Inclusion for Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), since 2013, Ciere manages the planning and development of new projects. This includes Pullman Park, the 180-acre mixed-use site at 111th Street and I-94, where CNI has coordinated over $280 million of new investment and created nearly 1,300 new jobs. In addition to planning and development, Ciere has been instrumental in leading CNI’s community engagement process.

By forging positive relationships with community groups, and individual community members, she fostered widespread support for Pullman Artspace Lofts, an innovative new work/live space; the Whole Foods Distribution Center in Pullman; a new Mariano’s in Bronzeville; and a community center in Pullman, the largest year-round, indoor athletic complex of its kind in the region.

Ciere spearheads CNI’s efforts for diversity and inclusion; through her management and project oversight, CNI has achieved between 30 to 50 percent minority business enterprise contractor participation in its projects.

Ciere was recognized as one of Crain’s 2019 Notable Women in Commercial Real Estate and 2020 40 Under Forty.

Janet Chess, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, IBM Global Markets, IBM 

Janet Chess

Janet Chess, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at IBM, is a transformational leader with 30 years' experience delivering profitable revenue growth and building relationships that create value. Known to her clients and stakeholders as a trusted advisor, Janet possesses a proven ability to lead and empower global sales, services, and marketing & operations organizations.

Janet has built her entire career in the tech industry and has held senior leadership positions in business development, consulting services, and corporate social responsibility for both Microsoft and Xerox Corporation. MPC is fortunate to benefit from her civic leadership roles in Seattle and Atlanta. Janet's commitment to advancing social good, driving global change, and developing and maintaining C-suite relationships are all strengths that will strengthen MPC.

Nedra Sims Fears, Executive Director, Greater Chatham Initiative 

Nedra Sims Fears

As Executive Director of the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) since 2016, Nedra is an economic development expert who specializes in strategic planning, financial modeling, community development financing, and program management. At GCI, she spearheaded the creation of a new Chatham Center Chicago—a branded commercial retail area that has an accompanying online directory of 300 merchants and service providers. Additionally, Nedra collaborated with partners to undertake multi-prong activities that contributed to the recent uptick in Greater Chatham housing sales and prices—making Chatham a bright spot in Chicago’s housing market.

During the Great Recession, Nedra served as a business development consultant with First Children’s Finance, measurably improving the operations of 45 early care and education centers managed by universities, public school systems, and private owners.

Earlier in her career Fears financed $1 billion in low- and moderate-income single-family and multi-family housing for Fannie Mae, City of Chicago Department of Housing and Community Investment Corporation.

A Chatham native, Nedra is a National Committee member for Middle Neighborhoods—an entity MPC works with that promotes places where homes are affordable to the average family. She is also a former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. 

Manny Flores, President & CEO, SomerCor

Manny Flores

Manuel "Manny" Flores serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of SomerCor. Flores brings a unique blend of public and private sector leadership experience, having served as Acting Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission and Alderman of Chicago's 1st Ward. As head of SomerCor, Manny leads the non-profit, small business lender that holds a portfolio of close to half a billion dollars in SBA 504 loans. His work focuses on the intersection of small business lending, community development, and public policy. He possesses experience with successfully implementing business process management systems to enhance enterprise operations. Manny is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and a Board Member of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. 

Daryl Newell, President, Seaway Bank 

Daryl Newell

As the President of Seaway, a division of Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Daryl manages strategic organizational planning for Self-Help’s development and growth in the South and West Sides of Chicago and parts of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Daryl first joined Self-Help FCU in May of 2017 after an extensive 27-year career in the banking industry.

Daryl’s leadership and accomplishments in the financial services industry have garnered him national and local recognition, including the 2006 Friend of the Continental Africa Chamber of Commerce US Award; inclusion in Who’s Who Among African Americans, 15th Edition; and an Illuminati Award from the Institute for Positive Living’s Open Book Program. His volunteer and charitable efforts include the National Football League Retired Players Association, 100 Black Men of Chicago, Inc., and Northwestern University Alumni Association.


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