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Commissioners

Chair: Nina M. Harris

Nina Harris was appointed Chief Administrative Officer of the Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology, the State’s best-in-class modernization agency.

Harris previously served as the first female President and CEO of the Springfield Urban League Inc., the fourth largest affiliate of the National Urban League. She successfully expanded social entrepreneurship initiatives, workforce training, early childhood and youth educational intervention services, population health and life quality research and advocacy endeavors. She launched an economic strategic agenda that yielded an 82% increase in its operational budget within one twelve-month period and eliminated all long- and short-term debt for the first time in the Agency’s History. She began her tenure as a member of its Board of Directors.

A recognized thought leader in transformational community progress and diversity advancement, Harris has a noted resume of corporate and economic development governance.

A native of Springfield, Illinois, she holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois, as well as a Bachelor of Arts from Sangamon State University. She and her husband, Jesse, are the parents of one son, Jesse B. Harris IV.

Commissioner: C. Richard Costes

C. Richard Costes' is honored to be appointed to the Commission on Equity and Inclusion by Governor Pritzker.  He has spent the last decade fighting for accessibility for disabled communities in the nonprofit sector.

A devoted advocate for marginalized groups, Richard joins the CEI after working for two years at Communication Service for the Deaf, a constellation of companies that provide products, programs, and services that are designed to create opportunities for deaf people to succeed.  Before that he worked for six at the Association for Corporate Growth, the premier global community for middle-market M&A deal-makers and business leaders focused on driving growth.  He has also spent nearly a decade as a accessibility consultant for various arts organizations throughout the country; speaking on panels and providing organizational feedback to make their companies more inclusive to both people with disabilities and people of color.

Richard graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Arts and he currently serves on the board of the National Theatre of the Deaf, is a member of both Disability LEAD and the 3Arts Artist Council.

Acting Commissioner: Bruce E. Montgomery

Bruce Montgomery is an active contributor to Chicago's business, technology, and cultural communities. He is the founder of Montgomery & Company, a digital media, information, and communications technology company. He also founded Technology Access Television, Chicago's long running weekly  business, innovation and tech news focused show of which he is the Executive Producer and Host. He established the Entrepreneur Success Program, which serves early-stage business founders in accelerating their path to sustainable growth. He has delivered startup business education programs at Sunshine Enterprises and financial empowerment services for Operation HOPE.

Bruce serves on the boards of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, (BroadbandIllinois.org) and the Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Commission, (Blackmetropolis.org).

He studied journalism, advertising and marketing at Northwestern University and completed MBEP/AMBEP programs at the Amos Tuck Graduate School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Commissioner: Ennedy D. Rivera

Appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to serve as a member of the Commission on Equity and Inclusion, Rivera is a truly honor and grateful for the opportunity to work with the administration, community groups, and state legislators to make Illinois equitable for everyone.

Rivera has served as Chief Legal Counsel at the Office of the City Clerk for the City of Chicago. Prior to this role, she was the Deputy General Counsel at Central Management Services and the General Counsel for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Rivera spent her formative years as a Senior Associate for the law firm of Wysocki and Smith. Her dedication and passion for service is seen through her community involvement. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program, Board of Trustees for Woodlands Academy and previously served on the Board of Directors for Mothers Trust Foundation, the Lake County Community Foundation, the State of Illinois Charitable Trust, the YWCA of Lake County, and is a member of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc. Rivera received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law.

Acting Commissioner: Benjamin Salentine

Benjamin Salentine is honored to be appointed by Governor Pritzker to serve on the Illinois Commission on Equity and Inclusion. Most recently, Salentine served as Associate Director of Health Sciences Managed Care at UI Health (University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System). In this role, areas of focused expertise included strategic oversight and execution regarding contracting, credentialing, financial analysis, pricing analytics, business development and operations. While at UI Health/University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), he was selected to serve on the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of People with Disabilities, Anti-Racism and Equity Committee, Culture and Heritage Month Committee, BEST Community Advisory Committee, Social Determinants of Health Collaborative, Equity and Screening Tool Workgroup and Disability and Human Development Student Association.

Salentine serves on the Progress Center for Independent Living Board of Directors and is also a member of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE-IL) Board of Directors. He is a member and serves in a mentorship capacity through Disability Lead. Salentine also participates in a research study on spinal cord injury and quality of life through the Illinois Institute of Technology. 

Through his lived experience with disability, as well as his professional and academic endeavors, and volunteer experiences within the non-profit and community-based organization sectors, Salentine has played a pivotal role in realizing positive and impactful change for minority and underrepresented populations. Salentine has worked diligently toward increasing social justice, while contributing to further education and awareness through several mediums. He was the focus of an employee spotlight for disability awareness month at UI Health, while also being featured in 2023 Crain’s Notable Leaders in Health Care. He participated in a radio interview on National Public Radio – WBEZ Chicago Reset, reflecting upon the legacy of the ADA. Salentine has contributed to publications regarding disability and healthcare (The Atlantic and Undark Magazine), while also participating in several panel speaking engagements. The culmination of his media presence, committee appointments, board memberships, academic and professional efforts all seek to add to and further highlight the voice of marginalized groups, while positively impacting efforts aimed at diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.

Salentine earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Silver Lake College, as well as a Master of Science Degree in Community Health from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Science Degree in Rehabilitation from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Disability Studies from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). This academic endeavor has yielded not only a doctoral degree but also expertise in the subjects matters of the social determinants of health, disability, accessibility, inclusion, and health equity. Salentine also earned his Disability Ethics Certificate from UIC and obtained Fellow Academy of Healthcare Management Certification (FAHM) through AHIP.  

Acting Commissioner: Ovelia Smith-Barton

Ovelia Smith-Barton will serve as a Member of the Commission on Equity and Inclusion. Smith-Barton has 25 years of service with the State of Illinois, becoming a Certified Master Trainer in 2003. She has worked for the Illinois Departments of Human Services and Human Rights, receiving certifications as a facilitator from the National Curriculum & Training Institute, BCON LIFO International, Prairie Crossing Institute, American Heart Association and American Lung Association. Prior to her employment with the State Smith-Barton was employed by Transactive Corporation as the Client Program Manager-Retail Training Coordinator. Within this role she collaborated with the Illinois Department of Human Services in the successful implementation of the Illinois Link Program. Smith-Barton has served on the Board of Directors with the Springfield Urban League and Sojourn Shelter and Services and was a statewide team member with Illinois Imagines (ICASA) working to improve services for women with disabilities who had been victims of sexual violence. Smith-Barton is a graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Services Administration.