White House Initiative Latino Economic Summit in San Antonio

Hosted by:


On Tuesday, March 22nd from 12:30-3:30 p.m. the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics and the Aspen Institute will host the inaugural White House Initiative Latino Economic Summit, with support from the White House, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Labor, and Small Business Administration.

Held at the University of Texas San Antonio’s downtown campus, this summit is the first in a series of in-person events across the country designed to highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing equity and economic empowerment and to connect local Latino community members directly with federal leaders and resources.

President Joe Biden and Administration leaders know that America’s future prosperity and global leadership is tied to the success of Latino families and communities. Through the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure law, executive orders and Administrative actions, the Biden-Harris Administration is making historic investments in the Latino community from federal contracting to workforce development. Together, we are building a better America.

Online Summit Program







12:30 p.m. – Opening Session – Buena Vista Theater

  • Melody Gonzales, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics
  • Ernie Apreza, The White House
  • Domenika Lynch, Executive Director, Latinos and Society Program, Aspen Institute
  • Cristóbal Alex, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, The White House
  • Teri Castillo, Councilwoman, District 5, San Antonio City Council
  • Joaquin Castro, U.S. Congressman, Texas 20th Congressional District
  • Taylor Eighmy, President, The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Isabella Guzman, Administrator, Small Business Administration

1:15 – 1:30 p.m. – Break – Buena Vista Theater Lobby

1:30 – 2:15 p.m. – Workshops Sessions:

  • Procurement and Grant Opportunities for Entrepreneurs & the Community (presented by Small Business Administration)  – River Walk Room, Durango Building
  • Education Equity and Workforce Development (presented by U.S. Department of Education) – Assembly Room, Buena Vista Building
  • Entrepreneurial and Worker Empowerment Through Community Development (presented by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) – Aula Canaria Lecture Hall, Buena Vista Building
  • Essential Workers, Essential Protections (presented by U.S. Department of Labor) – La Villita Room, Durango Building

2:15 – 2:30 p.m. – Break – Buena Vista Theater Lobby

2:30 – 3:15 p.m. – Federal Resource Beneficiaries Panel – Buena Vista Theater

  • Moderator: Melody Gonzales, White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics
  • Priscilla Camacho, Alamo Colleges District
  • Jose Escobedo, The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Ramiro Gonzales, Prosper West San Antonio
  • Alejandra Lopez, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel

3:15 – 3:30 p.m. – Closing Session – Buena Vista Theater

Ron Nirenberg, Mayor, City of San Antonio


Cristóbal Alex, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, The White House

Cristóbal Alex is a senior Biden-Harris Administration Official, political and non-profit leader. As the White House Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Cristóbal helps serve as the link between the Cabinet and the White House, and supports Cabinet agency coordination on a portfolio of the President’s top priorities, including the historic American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and a whole-of-government approach to promote equity. Among Biden for President’s first hires, Cristóbal served as a Senior Advisor to Joe Biden where he helped develop and implement state and national strategy, including the primary campaign’s political and coalition efforts, and served on the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce.

Prior to that, Cristóbal was the founding President of the Latino Victory Fund, helping elect more than 70 candidates to office, from the school board to the U.S. Senate. After successfully building the organization, Cristóbal served as Hillary for America’s National Deputy Director of Voter Outreach and Mobilization where he managed a team to register, persuade, and mobilize the core coalition groups that form the base of the Democratic Party as well as the Expansion States program to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in 37 states.

Before his transition into politics, Cristóbal spent five years working with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation where he managed more than $75M in grants. Cristóbal started his career as a civil rights lawyer with MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, one of the nation’s leading law firms, and led the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights. A native of El Paso, Texas, Cristóbal received his J.D. from the University of Washington where he served as student body president.

Teri Castillo, Councilmember District 5, City of San Antonio

Teri Castillo is a life-long, generational resident of District 5, raised in and resident of the West Side of San Antonio, and proud daughter and granddaughter of migrant farm workers.

Castillo is a Burbank High School alumnus and holds a master’s degree in History with a focus in Urban Policy from UTSA.

The Councilmember is a housing organizer, a historian of urban policy, has organized statewide for health care with the Texas Organizing Project, and since 2019 has been an active member of the Historic Westside Neighborhood Association.

She has worked in District 5 public schools for six years. Elected to the City Council in June of 2021.

Joaquin Castro, U.S. Congressman, Texas 20th Congressional District

Joaquin has worked hard to seize the opportunities created by the sacrifices of his grandmother and prior generations. After finishing high school a year early, Joaquin left San Antonio to graduate with honors from Stanford University in 1996. He then went on to attend Harvard Law School where he received his Juris Doctorate degree in 2000. Upon his return to San Antonio at 28 years old, Joaquin joined a private law practice and was elected to the Texas Legislature. He served five terms as state representative for District 125. In 2012, Joaquin was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives as representative of Texas’ 20th Congressional District, which covers a large portion of San Antonio and Bexar County. Joaquin’s identical twin brother, Julián Castro, was elected in 2013 to his third term as Mayor of San Antonio. On July 28, 2014, Julian Castro was sworn in as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Joaquin’s respect for public service developed at a young age and was deeply influenced by his parents’ involvement in political movements and civic causes. His father, a retired teacher, and his mother, a renowned community activist, instilled in him a deep appreciation for the democratic process and the importance of serving one’s community.

Despite a difficult political environment during his time as state legislator, Joaquin transcended partisan gridlock to help restore millions of dollars in funding to critical health care and education programs. As Vice Chairman of the Higher Education Committee and Democratic Floor Leader in the Texas House, he was also at the forefront in proposing forward-thinking legislative reforms in the areas of mental health, teen pregnancy, and juvenile justice.

Now in his fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Joaquin serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee. He was the 2013 Co-President for the House freshman Democrats and currently serves as Chair of the Texas Democratic Caucus.

Outside of the legislative chamber, Joaquin has demonstrated a strong commitment to his community. He created the Trailblazers College Tour, personally raising money to send underprivileged students on college visits, giving them exposure to some of the nation’s best institutions of higher education. He also founded SA READS, San Antonio’s largest literacy campaign and book drive. Over 200,000 books have been distributed to more than 150 schools and shelters across the city. To honor and express gratitude to San Antonio grandparents and other family members raising relatives who aren’t their children, Joaquin created the annual Families Helping Families dinner and awards. He has also taught as a visiting professor of law at St. Mary’s University and as an adjunct professor at Trinity University. Joaquin is active on several boards of education-related, non-profit organizations, including the National College Advising Corps, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) Taskforce on Education.

Having experienced America’s promise firsthand, Joaquin wants to help build out what he calls the Infrastructure of Opportunity so that future generations will have the same chance to pursue their American Dream. Joaquin believes that just as there is an infrastructure of transportation that helps us get to where we want to go on the road there is an Infrastructure of Opportunity that helps Americans get to where they want to go in life. It is that Infrastructure of Opportunity – great public schools and universities, a sound healthcare system, and good-paying jobs –  that enables Americans to pursue their American Dream. Our centuries-long commitment to building and preserving this infrastructure is what distinguishes America among the nations of the world.

As Congressman, Joaquin continues to be a tireless advocate for those who call San Antonio home. From supporting military families to investing in education, Joaquin remains committed to helping mold an Infrastructure of Opportunity for San Antonians and Americans around the country.

Taylor Eighmy, President, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Taylor Eighmy is the 6th president of The University of Texas at San Antonio. In addition, Eighmy serves as a member of the UTSA faculty as a professor with appointments in the College of Engineering’s department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the College of Sciences’ department of Environmental Science and Ecology.

As an advocate for urban-serving public higher education, Eighmy is passionate about UTSA’s role in developing San Antonio’s knowledge economy by preparing future leaders and generating new knowledge that changes the world.

Eighmy brings a strong track record of advancing top research universities through strategic government collaborations, public-private partnerships and community engagement. Eighmy’s experiences as an administrative leader, researcher, inventor and professor influenced his perspective as a champion of student success, particularly regarding the impact of experiential learning and undergraduate research programs.

Prior to arriving at UTSA in September 2017, Eighmy served as the chief research officer at three top public flagship universities: the University of New Hampshire, Texas Tech University and, most recently, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While at the University of Tennessee, Eighmy and colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory directed efforts that resulted in the University of Tennessee’s selection to lead the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a $259 million public-private partnership supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Eighmy serves on the boards of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), APLU Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio Medical Foundation, World Affairs Council of San Antonio, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, Conference USA and UP Partnership. He is a member of the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors, the Council on Competitiveness, and an Advisory Trustee of Southwest Research Institute. He currently serves as the Chair of the APLU Commission on International Initiatives, serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas International Education Consortium, serves on the Board of Directors for Tech Bloc San Antonio, serves as a member of the Advisory Council for the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County and serves on the Council of the National Academies’ Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR). Eighmy was most recently appointed to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Board of Trustees through 2024.

Isabella Casillas Guzman serves as the 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and was sworn in on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. Administrator Guzman represents the more than 32.5 million U.S. small businesses and is committed to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs start, grow and be resilient.

A lifelong proponent of small businesses, Guzman grew up as the daughter of a small business owner and learned at a young age how important small businesses are to the communities they serve, the people they employ, and the economies they help power.

Administrator Guzman previously served as Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, a position she held after being appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in April 2019. In that role, she served as the voice of small businesses and innovative startups in the 5th largest economy in the world.  She administered and advocated for programs and initiatives to help small businesses access capital, markets, and networks for stronger outcomes.  She and her team helped connect entrepreneurs in every community with the resources needed. As the economic recovery support function coordinator for the state, she focused on resilience and most recently worked to help small businesses access relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In California, Administrator Guzman oversaw a network of small business centers focused on expanding assistance to underserved business groups. She launched new public private partnerships and collaborated to deliver cutting edge resources to small businesses, including through initiatives like Get Digital CA to increase technology and e-commerce adoption and Source Diverse Source Local to strengthen supply chain readiness.  She advocated fiercely for financial relief for small businesses, leading to the expansion of state supported lending and the largest COVID-19 grant relief program in the nation at over $2.5 billion. Guzman’s office launched the Entrepreneurship Task Force to serve as a bridge to small businesses and create content and programs to help strengthen the competitiveness of startup and small firms.

Administrator Guzman has previously served in leadership at the SBA as the agency’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor during the Obama-Biden Administration, where she oversaw policy and new program implementation. She was a small business entrepreneur herself, and an advisor to fellow founders including in accelerating technology commercialization and in helping small business contractors leverage the federal marketplace.  Administrator Guzman earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.

Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio

Ron Nirenberg is the mayor of San Antonio, which has the 7th largest population in the United States and is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.

Mayor Nirenberg is the first San Antonio Mayor of Asian Pacific Islander descent. His mother is Filipino and his paternal grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe who passed through Ellis Island.

Through his personal experiences, Mayor Nirenberg developed a core commitment to civic participation and the universal values of liberty, justice, and equal opportunity for every person.

First elected in 2017, Mayor Nirenberg was re-elected to a third term on May 1, 2021.

Under his leadership as mayor, the city has adopted an equity framework in budgeting to reduce poverty, improve public health, and overcome historical socioeconomic inequality. He is focused on making key investments necessary to accommodate San Antonio’s growth, which is expected to nearly double the city’s population by 2040. This forward-looking approach drives the mayor’s vision of a compassionate community with a globally competitive economy.

Federal Resources Beneficiaries Panel

Priscilla Camacho, Chief Legislative, Industry and External Relations Officer, Alamo Colleges District

Priscilla Camacho serves as the Chief Legislative, Industry & External Relations officer for the Alamo Colleges District. In her role, Priscilla serves as the liaison between the Alamo Colleges and governmental entities at the local, state and federal level along with building and enhancing industry and external partnerships in the region. She brings extensive experience in education, workforce and public policy on behalf of major Texas chambers including the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and Dallas Regional Chamber. An attorney by trade, Priscilla also previously worked for several law firms in San Antonio region practicing family law including child protective services cases. Priscilla received her B.A. in English & Communication Arts from St. Mary’s University and her J.D. from Texas Tech University School of Law.

Jose Escobedo, Student Body President, University of Texas at San Antonio

Jose Escobedo is a 22 year-old senior political science major at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is originally from the south Texas region of the Rio Grande Valley. He currently serves as the Student Body President for his university and plans to attend graduate school to obtain a Masters of Education in Higher Education Administration.



Ramiro Gonzales, President and CEO, Prosper West San Antonio

Ramiro Gonzales is the President and CEO of Prosper West San Antonio, a nonprofit economic development organization and local redevelopment authority focused on the revitalization and economic advancement of the Westside of San Antonio – an area home to the poorest zip code in the city. On the heels of the COVID pandemic, Ramiro has led the organization through a rebranding, the disbursement of over $3 million in relief funding and outreach to over 1,300 small and micro businesses, the redevelopment of the Basila Frocks building (an iconic community building steeped in history), the development of the Westside’s first inclusive economic growth strategic plan which included over 30 community partners, and is currently leading efforts on the establishment of a $15 million corridor reinvestment fund. Prior to joining Prosper West, Ramiro served 15 years with the City of San Antonio and helped to facilitate the development of over 7,500 housing units in the downtown area and structure over $80 million of public investment in urban redevelopment projects. He also served several years with the City Attorney’s Office and Office of the City Manager as a paralegal and policy analyst where he developed and analyzed policies and programs, and managed the City Council legislative agenda under the direction of the City Manager. As an advocate for maximizing real estate assets for community benefit, he has cofounded several nonprofit endeavors including a program to build accessory dwelling units for vulnerable families, and an effort to help churches reimagine their surplus property to solve community problems. “Ram”, as most often called, also founded and manages a small private real estate investment fund, is in the process of launching a second fund focused on providing affordable homeownership opportunities. and serves on multiple boards related to community reinvestment and affordable housing. Ramiro was born and raised in San Antonio and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Alejandra Lopez, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel

Alejandra Lopez is an educator, organizer, and president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. Alejandra attended San Antonio public schools K-12, earned her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy studies as a member of the Urban School Leaders Collaborative at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has been involved in social justice movement work in Europe and the United States for over 15 years with focuses in immigration, racial, and economic justice and has worked in education for over 10 years, most recently as a 2nd grade teacher at Hillcrest Elementary. Alejandra believes that our public schools are the heart of our communities and continues to organize for greater worker, student, parent/caregiver, and community voice in district decision making.


Click on each session to learn about the session description, presenter biographies and room location:

River Walk Room: Procurement and Grant Opportunities for Entrepreneurs & the Community (presented by the Small Business Administration)

Assembly Room: Education Equity and Workforce Development (presented by the U.S. Department of Education)

Aula Carnaria Lecture Hall: Entrepreneurial and Worker Empowerment Through Community Development (presented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

La Villita Room: Essential Workers, Essential Protections (presented by the U.S. Department of Labor)

Session Title: President Biden’s Agenda on Federal Contracting: Creating Equity for Small Businesses & Local Communities (presented by U.S. Small Business Administration)

Session Description: The Biden Harris Administration has laid out a bold agenda focused on bringing greater equity to federal contracting  – a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to access the more than $560 billion spent annually by U.S. government  on goods and services. Join Bibi Hidalgo, SBA Associate Administrator for the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, to discuss how the federal government is delivering on this commitment and the continued effort to expand the industrial base and bring access to the country’s most underserved communities.

Panelist Bios:

Bibi Hidalgo, Associate Administrator, Office of Government Contracting & Business Development 

Bibi Hidalgo is the Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development at the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA).  In this role, Ms. Hidalgo oversee and reviews procurement-related policies for small business contractors whose dream is to work with the Federal Government, including Woman-owned, Veteran-owned, Socially Disadvantaged, HUBZone, and 8(a) Minority Business Development Program, small businesses. Ms. Hidalgo served as the SBA Government Contracting Policy Lead for the Biden-Harris Transition Team, developing policies that President Biden could execute in the first 100 days, with an emphasis on underserved communities. In 2014, Ms. Hidalgo and her brother Patrick Hidalgo co-founded Future Partners, LLC, which advised Fortune 500 corporate executives on procurement and minority business strategy and created a model for how to facilitate significant opportunities for both. Prior to that, she and her brother served in the White House, during which time she managed a government-wide initiative with all 24 Cabinet agencies to position the federal government to meet the Congressional 23% small business goal out of a $400 billion contracting budget for the first time in a decade. One of her proudest moments was serving as the assistant coach of her only son’s 16 U CYO basketball team and they won second place in their division. Ms. Hidalgo has a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Ms. Hidalgo dedicates her work to the memory of her brother Patrick, who passed away suddenly at the age of 41 in March of 2020.

Edward “Ted” James, SBA Regional Administrator, Region VI

As Region VI Administrator, Ted James will oversee SBA programs, offices, and operations in the SBA’s South Central region, serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Mr. James’ passion for leadership is driven by a deeply held desire to impact the lives of others while transforming his community. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he was taught at an early age the value of service, the strength of community, the importance of a quality education, and the principles of social justice. Mr. James earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Southern University A & M College and obtained his Juris Doctorate with honors from the Southern University Law Center. In November of 2011, Mr. James was elected to serve as State Representative for Louisiana’s 101st House District and immediately emerged as a leader in the Legislature. During his three terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives, he served as Chairman of the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee and Chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. Outside of the Louisiana State Legislature, Mr. James is an attorney and past director of the Baton Rouge office of the Urban League of Louisiana.

Session Title: Education Equity and Workforce Development (presented by the U.S. Department of Education)

Session Description: Hosted by the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (White House Hispanic Initiative), attendees will learn about the Biden-Harris Administration & U.S. Department of Education’s education equity and workforce development efforts and spark ideas on how attendees can collaborate with the White House Hispanic Initiative in advancing Latino equity priorities.

Presenter Bios:

Melody Gonzales, Executive Director, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics

Melody Gonzales is a creative, impact-oriented, bilingual professional with nearly 20 years of experience rooted in the Federal, advocacy, union and nonprofit sectors. Having served two Presidents, one Governor, two Members of Congress and the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, she is committed to advancing impactful initiatives and building the capacity of leaders shaping a brighter future for our nation. Melody joins the U.S. Department of Education from the National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing 3 million educators. As a senior advisor for Latino advocacy and partnership engagement in the NEA’s Center for Racial and Social Justice, she managed policy, grants, partnerships and advocacy efforts centered on bridging the NEA with Latino, immigration and civil rights advocates to collectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, improve students’ educational outcomes, advance racial and social justice in public schools and communities, and empower educators to excel in their profession. Her prior experience includes serving: on the Biden-Harris transition team’s Office of Personnel Management Agency Review Team; as a Senior Executive Service-level appointee in the Obama-Biden Administration — serving first as the U.S Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration Chief of Staff and then as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; as a Legislative Assistant then Director of Member Outreach for former Congressman Xavier Becerra and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus; and as the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s Founding Director of the Latino Appointments Program. She mobilized Latino voters as: Virginia State Latino Vote Director for the 2012 Obama-Biden re-election as well as Governor Ralph Northam’s 2017 election; Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva’s 2010 Get Out the Vote Director; and on the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign in Colorado.

Emmanuel Caudillo, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics

Emmanuel Caudillo is the senior advisor to the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Prosperity for Hispanics. Previously on detail to the initiative in 2012, he transitioned full-time in 2013. From 2009 to 2013, he was a budget analyst at the U.S. Department of Education, overseeing the student aid administration account. He has held research positions in various organizations, including Abt Associates and the National Council on Teacher Quality. For his commitment to his community, Emmanuel was named 40 Under 40 from the Leadership Center for Excellence in 2015. He also was a 2017 Ricardo Salinas Scholar at the Aspen Institute and 2019-2020 Excellence in Government Fellow at the Partnership for Public Service. Originally from Los Angeles, he holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and a Master of Public Policy from The George Washington University. His passion for education is due to the strong sense of duty and commitment his parents instilled in him.

Session Title: Entrepreneurial and Worker Empowerment through Community Development (presented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Session Description: Facilitated by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, attendees will learn and explore the economic opportunities generated through HUD funded projects and hear first-hand experience on the benefits of project labor agreements and a collaborative approach to support worker empowerment and entrepreneurial opportunities through community development. Through a panel of local experts, this session will highlight work done in San Antonio as well as the “Build Houston Better” project, exploring the challenges organizers faced, how they overcame them, and how their work supports worker empowerment in Texas.

Presenter Bios:

Zuleika K. Morales-Romero, HUD San Antonio Field Office Director

Zuleika K. Morales-Romero joined HUD’s Region VI San Antonio Field Office in 2016. She is responsible for overseeing all HUD programs in the 57 Texas counties. Prior, to joining the field, Ms. Morales-Romero was a Field Operations Director in HUD’s Office of Field Policy and Management in Washington, D.C., where she coordinated HUD place-based initiatives in field offices across the country. Zuleika is a Jan Tinbergen Scholar that completed HG Planning in the Universteit of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and a Bachelor of Arts, Economics, from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Bolivia.

Geoffrey Hickox, Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, HUD’s Office of Field Policy and Management

Geoffrey (Geoff) Hickox works across program areas to support worker empowerment and economic opportunities for low-income individuals and HUD-assisted residents. Prior to joining HUD, Geoff spent 10 years with the Corporation for National and Community Service, most recently as the State Director in Oregon where he strived to position AmeriCorps resources to address critical needs related to affordable housing and homelessness.

Lacia Sommars, Program Analyst, Office of Economic Opportunity, HUD’s Office of Field Policy and Management.

Lacia works with worker empowerment and economic development as a Section 3 policy expert, acting as a resource to field offices, housing agencies, and other community partners. Previously, Lacia served in the Peace Corps in The Republic of Georgia where she worked with former inmates and their family members to support their reintegration into society by preparing them to access economic opportunities and as well as access to education and healthcare resources.

Linda Morales, Organizing Director, Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO

Linda Morales brings a lifetime of experience in healthcare, state government and labor movement to the TGCALF. She is responsible for worker advocacy in TGCALF jurisdictions, including initiatives like Build Houston Better. She is a member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 129 and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Gulf Coast.

Chrishelle Palay, Director, Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME)

Chrishelle Palay is the director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME) Coalition. HOME was created in response to Hurricane Harvey in an effort to ensure all Houstonians recovered from the disaster in an equitable manner. HOME is comprised of several organizations whose expertise ranges from policy advocacy, direct services, legal enforcement and grassroots organizing. Prior to leading this collective, Chrishelle focused on fair housing policy advocacy as the Southeast Co-Director at Texas Housers for over 7 years. Through this work she provided housing and neighborhood development policy analysis and review to local community organizing groups who were addressing major disinvestment and neglect in their communities. Her expertise grew out of disaster recovery efforts after 2008’s Hurricane Ike disaster recovery process. This experience well positioned community leaders, organizers and advocates to demand equitable investment and treatment for low income communities in the Hurricane Harvey recovery process. Before transitioning into social justice work Chrishelle practiced architecture, specifically multifamily high rise development. Chrishelle is a Next City Vanguard alumni, and was a Ford Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project. She also participates in several national cohorts including Community of Practice on Local Housing Strategies, Ford Just Cities Narrative Shift Project and National Fair Housing Peer Network Group. Chrishelle has a Bachelors of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and proudly serves on the boards of directors of National Low Income Housing Coalition, Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and Rhodes School For The Performing Arts.

Veronica R. Soto, City of San Antonio, Neighborhood and Housing Services Department (NHSD)

Verónica (Vero) R. Soto is Director of the Neighborhood and Housing Services Department at the City of San Antonio.  The Department administers the City’s housing policies and programs, federal grants, Tax Increment Financing, fair housing, and emergency housing assistance. Her Department created the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program approved by Council in April 2020; now a $219 Million program, the program has kept thousands of families housed during the pandemic. Funding for housing assistance utilizes local funds, CDBG, and CARES Act funding. Previous experience includes executive roles at the City of El Paso, the City of Sunland Park, NM, and the El Paso Downtown Management District and positions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the City of New York, NY.  Vero is a graduate of Harvard College and Princeton University.

Adrian Lopez, Chief Executive Officer, Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA)

Adrian Lopez has over 20 years of community and economic development experience.  He has dedicated his career to public service; working in City, County, Council of Governments, non-profits, housing authority and most recently as the CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo.  His background includes: grant management, infrastructure development, housing, social services, workforce, commercial revitalization, administering incentive programs, and building collaborations.  His work includes some nationally recognized programs.  In addition to his career, he has held many civic positions to serve children and families.  Adrian holds a bachelors in Sociology and Political Science from St. Mary’s University.

Session Title: Essential Workers, Essential Protections (EWEP) (presented by the U.S. Department of Labor)

Session Description: The EWEP is a general presentation that explains who we are at the Wage & Hour Division, our mission and how we assist the most vulnerable workers by educating them on their rights in the workplace. The presentation also convers how to file a complaint if your rights are being infringed upon, as well as critical online resources for workers.

Presenter Bio:

Betty R. Campbell, Regional Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, US Department of Labor

Betty Campbell previously held the role of Deputy Regional Administrator from 2004 -2015. Located in the Dallas Regional Office, Betty Campbell has oversight of the Division’s operations in eleven states and administers the enforcement program for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and various government contract wage laws, Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Worker Protection Act (MSPA) and other laws establishing labor standards. Betty Campbell was hired with the U.S. Department of Labor under the Outstanding Scholar Program in July 1987 as a Wage and Hour Investigator in San Antonio, Texas. Betty currently serves on the Executive Review Board and is the Chair for the Dallas Regional Executive Committee. Betty graduated from The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree.