IEC STAFF

Our Team

executive director
Jen started as executive director of IEC in January of 2011. In addition to managing the organization, Jen lobbies on behalf of IEC’s member organizations on a wide range of issues.
Programs
Government Affairs Assistant

Blake assists our government affairs team in executing IEC’s state advocacy strategies. 

Chief of Staff

Chelsea ensures that IEC on track to meet our ambitious goals.

Policy Manager - Climate Programs

Stephanie manages climate & transportation policy, education, & strategy.

Land Use Programs Director

Eliot directs IEC’s sustainable land use policy priorities.

State Government Affairs Director

Ariel manages legal & governmental affairs in IEC’s state policy work.

ENERGY POLICY DIRECTOR

Samira directs IEC’s state energy policy development & implementation.

CONSERVATION DIRECTOR

Lindsay directs our open space and clean water work. 

Zero Waste Policy Manager

Liz manages advocacy, coalition building & organizing related to zero waste issues at IEC.

Legislative Relations Director

Dany directs IEC’s climate and transportation policy development & implementation.

City Programs DIRECTOR

Iyana directs coalition building, advocacy, & policy priorities in our city program.

Chicagoland conservation Manager

Sergio manages IEC’s Chicagoland conservation partnerships & programs.

Rural Affairs Director

Chad directs IEC’s rural affairs program across central & southern Illinois.

Municipal Engagement Manager

Angela manages IEC’s efforts to help implement the Inflation Reduction Act.

Communications & Development
Communications director

Tucker directs IEC’s communications strategy.

Social Media Manager

Sam is the voice and strategy behind IEC’s social media platforms. Follow IEC today!

Digital Engagement Manager

Alongside mobilizing Illinois enviros, Paloma coordinates our community council.

Development Associate

Danny ensures that IEC’s wide variety of donors is recognized and engaged.

Development director

Jaime directs all grants, development, and donor activities at IEC.

Climate Communications Manager

Hannah manages IEC’s climate communications planning & execution.

Grants Manager

Meredith manages, strategizes, and tracks IEC’s robust grants portfolio.

Operations
Office Administrator

Aly administers the day-to-day operations of our Springfield office.

HR & Operations Manager

Lauren manages our human resources work, supporting the well-being of our staff.

Careers at IEC

Jennifer Walling

Jen Walling has served as the Executive Director for the Illinois Environmental Council since January 2011, where she oversees the strategic direction and management of the organization and lobbies decision-makers on environmental issues. Jen is dedicated to building the power of Illinois’ environmental community to secure policy outcomes that protect the environment.

Over the last decade, Jen has worked to grow IEC staffing fivefold and increase the budget and number of member affiliates, all with a focus on serving and representing IEC’s affiliated organizations. With the board of directors, Jen worked to secure IEC’s partnership with the League of Conservation Voters in 2018, a national organization that has helped IEC network and build on a national level.

Jen has drafted, negotiated, lobbied, and passed hundreds of bills in Springfield while working to build the power, expertise, and relationships of the entire environmental community.

As a leader in climate policy, Jen has been at the frontline of lobbying and passing bills that will advance renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction, including the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act in 2021, and laws to simplify local siting of utility solar and wind projects in 2023.

Jen has been a statewide leader in composting policy since 2009 when she worked to pass the first commercial composting law in Illinois. She has fought to protect state parks and natural areas by increasing funding to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, increasing recreation liability protections, and funding stewardship through the Natural Areas Stewardship Act.

In 2022, Jen was recognized by Crain’s Chicago 40 under 40. She is also a two-time winner of the Capitol Fax Golden Horseshoe, once in 2023 for best in-house lobbyist and again in 2014 for best do-gooder lobbyist. She is also an Edgar Fellow (2018), New Leaders’ Council Fellow (2011), and Truman National Security Project (2012).

Jen holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also received a juris doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law and is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Jen loves to spend her free time with her rescued standard poodle, Sally. She enjoys baking, and in 2015, she and Rep. Kelly Cassidy baked fifty different blondie recipes during the May legislative session. She is a compost enthusiast and loves running, yoga, photography, and sewing.

Blake Andonov

Blake Andonov joined the Illinois Environmental Council in the Spring of 2023 as the Government Affairs Assistant.

Prior to joining IEC, Blake worked in the Clerk’s Office for the Illinois House of Representatives as the Information Resource Clerk, gaining key experience interfacing with legislators directly on the House Floor and in committees. Blake valued the up-close look at how decisions are made at the Capitol but wanted to be a part of making those decisions. That is why he joined IEC, so he could work directly with legislators to influence environmental legislation.

In his free time, Blake and his partner spend most of their time planting native flowers and trees in their almost three-acre yard. They also enjoy rock climbing and camping with their dog, Whiskey.

Chelsea Biggs

Chelsea Biggs joined the Illinois Environmental Council as Chief of Staff in Fall 2023. In this role she will lead the programs team, oversee the affiliate engagement strategy, and ensure that all parts of the organization are working smoothly to ensure our robust goals are met.

Prior to coming to IEC, Chelsea worked on the national, state, and hyper local level in  economic development, youth services and system diversion, and youth mental health. She brings a passion for bringing together public, private, and nonprofit entities to execute on solutions for large scale, systemic issues. Her career has focused on strategies for building capacity for nonprofit organizations through strong training and technical assistance programs. 

Chelsea has a Masters in Public Administration from Northeastern University with a concentration in urban studies as well as a Bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in anthropology. Outside of work, you might find Chelsea enjoying time with her husband and two children at the lakefront, exploring Chicago neighborhoods, and dabbling in some art.

Stephanie Blumenthal

Stephanie Blumenthal joined the Illinois Environmental Council as Policy Manager for Climate Programs in spring 2024. In this position, she is responsible for assisting with climate policy education, strategy, planning, and operations related to the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) in Chicago. Stephanie’s work also focuses on increasing access to equitable public transit in the Chicago area and across the state.

Before coming to IEC, Stephanie worked in the Wisconsin State Capitol. There, she focused on constituent relations and policy creation for the State Assembly after working for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Stephanie’s experience in state government informs her understanding that elected officials, and the policies they introduce, must adequately represent the needs of their communities.

Stephanie graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and environmental studies and certificates in Chicano/Latino studies and history. Outside of work, you’ll likely find her spending time outside with her dog, Hugo, exploring Chicago’s many restaurants, or convincing her partner to go swing dancing.

Eliot Clay

Eliot Clay

Eliot Clay has served as our State Programs Director at Illinois Environmental Council since Fall of 2021, having previously served as our Agriculture & Water Programs Director since December of 2018. Eliot provides leadership and guidance for IEC’s legislative and policy agenda. 

Prior to his work with IEC, Eliot was a staff member of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus for nearly four years, providing assistance as a Legislative Analyst for the Environment & Conservation Committee and the Agriculture Committee. He also served as a graduate assistant with Illinois Issues magazine and the Springfield-based NPR station.

Eliot earned his undergraduate degree at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in Political Science and English Literature, and then went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Ariel Hampton

Ariel (ah·ree·ELLE) serves as the Legal & Policy Researcher for the Illinois Environmental Council as of October 2020. She believes in bridging the gaps between the science community and policymakers, and offering practical solutions that protect the public.

Before joining IEC, Ariel worked as Assistant Legal Counsel for the Illinois State Senate in the Office of the Senate President.

Ariel holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geology from Colgate University as well as being a licensed attorney in Illinois. Outside of policy and research, you can find Ariel reading paranormal novels in between mugs of tea and cooking southern-style dishes.

Samira Hanessian

Samira joined the Illinois Environmental Council as the Energy Policy Director in the Spring of 2022, where she collaborates with IEC members and partners to implement the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. Samira understands that diverse experiences from equitable collaboration will drive the best path towards a clean energy future.

Prior to joining IEC, Samira served as Research & Policy Manager for the Chicago City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy where she created and promoted the passage of environmental policies. Prior to her work on the Committee, Samira led key initiatives for the City of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office Sustainability Team. She was also a consultant with MIST Environment and an Assistant Program Manager for the 2019 CommonGround Chicago Conference.

Samira attended the University of Minnesota graduating with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Double Minors in Environmental Science, Policy & Management, and Sustainability Studies. In 2021, Samira earned a Certification of Completion as a Fellow with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute and trained with the Climate Reality Project in 2019. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring different neighborhoods, hiking, musical theater, and tolerating her boisterous cat.

Lindsay Keeney

Lindsay Keeney has served as the Conservation Director for the Illinois Environmental Council since 2017, where she serves as lead staff on IEC’s conservation, open space and river issues. In addition, she supports IEC’s sustainable agriculture and local food programming. Lindsay believes that getting our decision makers out of their offices and into the field where they can see environmental issues and initiatives first hand and build relationships with their constituents in the conservation and agriculture community is the key to passing public policy that makes Illinois a leader in these areas. 

Lindsay has served in various conservation roles throughout her career including positions with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Jim Edgar State Fish and Wildlife Area, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Natural History Survey’s Illinois River Biological Station and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. She currently serves as a network architect for the Illinois Vital Lands Network and is on the board of the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield. Lindsay is trained in controlled prairie burns and is a certified farmers market manager.

Lindsay holds a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Illinois at Springfield and a master’s certificate in Geographic Information Services. In her spare time, Lindsay can be found restoring her farmhouse in rural Ashland, Illinois; chasing her kiddos Oliver and Hazel; hiking; fishing; kayaking and Instagramming pictures of her dogs.

Liz Kunkle

Liz joined the Illinois Environmental Council as its Zero Waste Policy Manager in May 2023. In this new role at IEC, she oversees advocacy, coalition building, relationships, and organizing related to zero waste issues throughout the state. She supports legislation that reduces the use of natural resources and wasted material, promotes innovative thinking and action on source reduction, recycling, and composting, and develops position and strategy analyses on how other states’ and cities’ policies could be implemented in Illinois and the city of Chicago.

Prior to joining IEC, Liz worked increasingly on sustainability and zero waste initiatives personally and professionally. While practicing trademark law for 20 + years, she established Green Teams at local schools, founded Go Green Winnetka, a non-profit citizens’ environmental group, and was appointed to her community’s Environmental and Forestry Commission. Since stepping away from the practice of law in 2019, Liz has worked for Collective Resource Compost, a woman-owned food scrap hauling company, and has become an active member of the Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition and the U.S. Composting Council.

When she’s not working, Liz enjoys spending time with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. She loves being outside, especially but not only in the summer, whether it’s walking, biking, boating, hiking, reading, or other. Her roots are in Illinois, and she is very excited to be part of IEC.

Dany Robles

Dany started as the Illinois Environmental Council’s Legislative Relations Director in the Spring of 2024, having previously served as IEC’s Climate Policy Director and Chicago Energy Policy Coordinator. In his role, Dany leads IEC’s green workforce and sustainable transportation team and serves as IEC’s point of contact for Illinois decision-makers. Additionally, he continues to work on developing the narrative around the need for climate migration solutions to be addressed as the looming effects of climate change continue to displace people worldwide.
Prior to joining IEC, Dany spent several years working in Corporate Security and Investigation before getting involved in political organizing. Dany worked as Regional Field Director for Congresswomen Marie Newman (IL-3) and Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and as Latine Bilingual Trainings Coordinator for the Sunrise Movement. Most recently, Dany worked with the IL Green New Deal Coalition as their State Coordinator.
Dany earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Criminology, Law, and Justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is an alum of the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus Foundation Fellowship. Outside of work, Dany enjoys playing and watching soccer; spending time in nature; playing and writing music; and exploring the local music scene.

Iyana Simba

Iyana currently serves as the City Programs  Director at the Illinois Environmental Council where she oversees advocacy, coalition building, aldermanic relationships and organizing related to environmental issues before the City of Chicago. Previously, she has served several roles at IEC including Clean Water Policy Director, Clean Water Advocate and Intern. In her most recent role as Clean Water Policy Director, she oversaw policy development, coalition building and advocacy related to water issues in Illinois. Iyana’s work continues to ensure water among other environmental issues are salient to both the public and decision makers.

Prior to working at IEC, she attended the University of Illinois at Chicago and graduated with honors with a degree in Public Policy and a Sustainable Cities minor. 

 Outside of her work, Iyana enjoys engaging in local politics, painting, hiking and traveling. She is also a member of the Environmentalists of Color Network and the Chicago Urban League’s Metropolitan Board.

Sergio Vargas

Sergio joined the Illinois Environmental Council in the Summer of 2022, where he develops and maintains partnerships with volunteers, individual supporters, affiliate organizations, partner and ally organizations to further IEC’s climate and conservation goals in Chicagoland.

Prior to coming to IEC, Sergio served as a Community Outreach Worker for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), helping students realize their potential and establishing a plan for success. Prior to ISAC, Sergio was a Policy Intern for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, helping to advance the green policies and sustainable initiatives necessary to protect one of the largest land management agencies in the United States. Sergio was also an Urban Public Policy Fellow via the Institute of Policy and Civic Engagement, where he learned from community leaders, advocates, and other experts about organizing, planning, and policy to better address the issues facing underserved communities.

Sergio attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy, with specializations in education and environmental policy. In his spare time, Sergio enjoys playing chess, djing, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Chad Wallace

Chad Wallace currently serves as the Rural Affairs Director at the Illinois Environmental Council.

Prior to working with IEC, Chad has been a lifetime farmer. His focus has always been geared toward land conservation and sustainability. For the past 20 years, he has operated Oak Tree Organics producing a large variety of fruits and vegetables. He also raises beef, pork, and lamb. Chad’s products are sold at farmers markets and local restaurants.

In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family.

Angela Xu

Angela Xu joined the Illinois Environmental Council as the Municipal Engagement Manager in the Fall of 2023. She works on policy issues surrounding clean energy and water. Additionally, in advancing IEC’s efforts to implement the Inflation Reduction Act, Angela engages with Illinois’ communities, grassroots coalitions, nonprofits, groups, and leaders in government.

She holds a Juris Doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law with a concentration in environmental law, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Prior to joining IEC, Angela has dedicated her time to environmental missions for Sierra Club, Our Children’s Trust, Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Chicago River, and more.

Outside of work, she enjoys visiting museums, attending arts and craft fairs, thrifting, and spending time with her talented actor-musician husband, Bill, and their adorable Australian Shepherd dog, Suvi.

 

Tucker Barry

Tucker Barry has served as the Communications Director for the Illinois Environmental Council since early 2019, where he manages traditional and digital communications strategy. Tucker knows that like the sound of a falling tree in an old wood forest, people can’t know about the good work nonprofits do if they don’t hear about it, or even better, see it in action. He believes that it’s up to communicators to bridge that gap between organizations and their audiences.

Before moving to Illinois in 2019, Tucker served as Press Secretary to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D-Louisiana) and ran communications and operations strategies at a handful of progressive advocacy nonprofits in Louisiana.

He graduated from Louisiana State University with a Master’s in Mass Communication and a Bachelor’s in English, Writing and Culture. When taking a break from what’s trending on Twitter, Tucker enjoys spending time with his dog, Elio, rock climbing and building out his new saltwater aquarium.

Sam Bower

Sam Bower joined IEC in December 2021. He currently serves as the Social Media Manager. He’s excited to use the power of social media to raise awareness of IEC’s environmental initiatives and share the power of communities across the state fighting for the environment. Prior to joining IEC, he worked in communications roles with the North American Association for Environmental Education and the City of Portage. 

Sam graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity. He currently attends Loyola University Chicago where he’s pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication. 

Sam enjoys swimming, going to brunch with friends, seeing movies, scrolling through Instagram for hours and exploring Chicago.

Paloma Campillo

Paloma Campillo serves as a Digital Engagement Manager at IEC after having entered as an intern and Special Events Coordinator in October 2019. Alongside strategic communications and educational work, Paloma oversees and coordinates IEC’s community council, a collective of community-based organizations from across the state. Paloma knows that political participation, education and advocacy are essential to a functioning democracy, so she is proud to facilitate that work where she can.

Paloma has previously worked as a research assistant at the Field Museum doing qualitative data coding and analysis under the Monarch’s View of the City Project. Additionally, she has interned with the Chicago branch of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) as well as the Kampala-based NGO Advocate’s Coalition for Development and Environment, where she performed qualitative data analysis as well as contributed to the book Local Government in Uganda: Democracy, Accountability And Civic Engagement.

Paloma graduated with honors from Kalamazoo College in March 2019, earning her degree in Anthropology & Sociology with a concentration in Public Policy. In her free time she likes to hang out with her giant wolf-dog, Nessie, and her very sweet turtle, Drizzle.

Danny Collins

Danny Collins joined the Illinois Environmental Council in early 2023 as the Development Associate, where they help develop, streamline, and maintain key fundraising practices. Danny is passionate about ensuring our dedicated community of supporters receive the highest-quality experience in their partnership with IEC.

Prior to coming to IEC, Danny served as the Database & Development Specialist at Erie Neighborhood House for nine years and as the Program & Events Coordinator at YouthBuild Lake County for two years before then. With over ten years of experience in fundraising, Danny brings a wealth of knowledge in donor database management, event planning, and individual giving.

Danny earned their Bachelor’s degree in Organizational & Corporate Communication from Northern Illinois University. In their free time, Danny enjoys riding their bike across the many trails Chicago has to offer; playing guitar; and spending time with family, friends, and their cat, Milo Lothario Oatmeal.

Jaime Gutshall

Jaime Gutshall joined the Illinois Environmental Council as the Development Director in the Spring of 2022, where she oversees all development and donor activities to ensure IEC can continue its mission to advance public policies that create healthy environments across Illinois through education, advocacy, and movement building. 

Prior to joining IEC, Jaime served as the Manager of Feeding Tomorrow, the foundation of the Institute of Food Technologists, and has also worked in a variety of roles at PAWS Chicago. She has worked in nonprofit organizations for almost a decade and has a true passion for helping nonprofits make the world a better place.

Jaime earned her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from North Central College and recently earned her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from DePaul University. When not hard at work, Jaime enjoys spending time with her rescued dog Leo and rescued rabbit Carl Fredricksbun, hiking, and cooking.

Hannah Flath

Hannah Flath joined the Illinois Environmental Council in May of 2024 and serves as the Climate Communications Manager. She has seen firsthand how traditional and digital media can be used to make bold progress in the clean energy transition and is excited to work to ensure Illinois remains a national leader in equitable climate policy and climate solutions.

Prior to joining IEC, Hannah served as Communications Coordinator with Sierra Club Illinois from 2021 to 2024 and previously worked as a Political Organizer through Sierra Club’s Victory Corps program. Before moving to Illinois in 2020, Hannah worked on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign and at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston. Hannah graduated from Northeastern University with a BS in Human Services.

In her free time, Hannah enjoys baking (particularly when it involves citrus), reading in Chicago’s many public parks, and taking care of her houseplants and container garden.

Meredith Lukow

Meredith Lukow joined the Illinois Environmental Council as Grants Manager in summer 2023. In this position, she is responsible for managing, strategizing, and tracking IEC’s robust grant portfolio while seeking new grant opportunities. 

Before coming to IEC, Meredith honed her project management and communications expertise at several nonprofit organizations in Chicago and Washington, D.C. These roles included serving as a project manager and communications lead for federal contracts at an education research organization, editing policy reports at a progressive think tank, and organizing for LGBTQ and immigrant rights at a small advocacy campaign. 

Meredith is a certified Project Management Professional and graduated from American University with dual bachelor’s degrees in international studies and political science and a minor in Arabic language. Outside of work, you might find Meredith tending to her ever-growing collection of houseplants, helping out with a prescribed burn or cutting buckthorn at the Riverbank Neighbors site along the Chicago River, or trying to decide once and for all which Muppet is her favorite. 

Aly Mejia

Aly Mejia has been working at IEC since May of 2021 as the Office Administrator at the Springfield office. Her responsibilities are managing the day-to-day operations of the office, organizing the workflow and providing an efficient and organized office environment. She is dedicated to providing support for staff and enjoys the administrative challenges of supporting a diverse organization. When not working, Aly enjoys arts and crafts and playing with her dogs.

Lauren Sprowl

Lauren Sprowl joined the Illinois Environmental Council at the beginning of 2024 and is our HR & Operations Manager. She supports the well-being of all of our staff and our beloved Chicago office plants.

Lauren holds a degree in Human Development and Social Relations from Kalamazoo College. Prior to working with IEC, Lauren worked for an education technology start-up as a People Operations & DEIB Manager. She also has non-profit management experience where she managed a vocational program for adults with disabilities. While her experience is varied, one thing has always remained true: her dedication to making work a safe and supportive place for all employees.

Outside of work you’ll find her enjoying time with her family (probably in some body of water), playing the piano, or baking up something yummy and unique.