Executive Director of the Economic and Community Development Agency
Barbara Brewer-Watson is the Executive Director of the Economic and Community Development Agency for the City of Kankakee. She is a 1998 graduate of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, a 2011 graduate of Spoon River College with her associate’s degree, and in December of 2014, she graduated from Western Illinois University with her bachelor’s degree. In May of 2019, upon completion of a four-year program, Barbi received her certification as a Professional Community and Economic Developer from the Community Development Institute, a program created by the Southern Economic Development Council in Atlanta, Georgia. She also earned her graduate degree in organizational leadership from Olivet Nazarene University in May 2019 and went on to complete her Master of Business Administration degree in May 2021. she is the Chairperson for Drug Free Kankakee, Inc., which helps to financially support the Kankakee County Drug Court program, and the Secretary for the Kankakee Regional Land Bank Authority. In the spring of 2022, Brewer-Watson was added to the Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District Housing Task Force facilitated by Congresswoman Kelly.
Her position with the City of Kankakee allows her to work alongside many businesses and organizations in neighborhoods across the city. Her primary goal is to keep connecting people and firms to opportunities and resources that will help them thrive here in Kankakee. Kankakee is home to Barbi and her husband Michael Watson and their dog Snickers.
MIKE HOFFMAN, AICP, PLA
Mike Hoffman and his team at Teska Associates, Inc. have been serving as the City’s Planning and Zoning Department since August of 2018. In that role they respond to zoning inquires, review all applications for zoning amendments and variances, support the Planning Board, and review, update and administer the City’s Zoning and Planning regulations and tools. Mr. Hoffman has been helping communities define and achieve their vision for over 35 years, including the last 29 with Teska. He has served as project manager for over 30 comprehensive plans, predominately for small and mid-sized communities and counties. His practice has focused on business district and corridor revitalization, development review, and preparation of modern zoning and appearance codes. Creation and management of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts is also a specialty of Mr. Hoffman, having helped create over 20 TIF’s.
Gloria Dowdy has been working with the City of Kankakee for 21 years. She started her journey here in 2001 as a Lead Clerk and has worked her way up to her current role as Program Manager. She has been a city resident for the past 33 years and attended Kankakee Community College where she earned an associate’s degree in computer science. She is passionate about helping those who need it and loves to see homeowners smile after rehabilitation work has been completed on their homes. Gloria is a 57-year-old who has five grown children and nine grandchildren. In her free time, she loves to play bingo, board games, and spend time with her family.
ASSISTANT PROGRAM MANAGER/PUBLIC SERVICE ADMINISTRATOR
Jan Gathing is a Kankakee resident and has worked for the City of Kankakee since October 1990 in a number of roles, beginning in the Police Department as a Desk Officer. She later worked with Police/Social Services as a Police Social Worker Assistant, which eventually led her to her current role at the Economic and Community Development Agency as the Assistant Program Manager and Public Service Administrator. Her primary responsibilities involve leading ECDA’s Public Service Program and Homebuyer Education Program, as well as securing relocation for client programs. Jan earned an associate’s degree in liberal studies and her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on communications from Governor’s State University. Jan is married to Jess and has one daughter Jessica, enjoys spending her time crafting, quilting, and cooking (especially baking), and is passionate about impacting lives, one act of kindness at a time.
Willeum Boykin joined the City of Kankakee's Economic and Community Development Agency as a Community Navigator in February 2022. He cherishes the responsibility of being a local resource guide, helping residents access the resources they need to live healthy, safe, and happy lives. He is also passionate about inter-organizational collaboration; one of his hobbies is maintaining a comprehensive community calendar that he hopes will set a precedent for unity in the community. An alumnus of Northland College Environmental Liberal Arts, Willeum can often be seen out exploring local functions, festivals, and meetings, and natural spaces like the river and local parks. His vision for Kankakee is that each of its citizens come to possess a sense of pride and ownership in it.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR
Samantha Rocknowski is the Community Outreach Coordinator of the Economic and Community Development Agency for the City of Kankakee. She finds opportunities to connect with residents not only to share programs and resources available to them, but also to listen to their concerns and needs. Samantha is a graduate of Bishop McNamara Catholic High School and Western Illinois University. As a former Social Studies Teacher at Kankakee High School, she is passionate about civic engagement and helping people realize their impact. Samantha loves reading, volunteering locally, and hanging out with her boys: Johnson, J.C., Figaro, and Flynn Rider.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT NAVIGATOR
Leo Jaramillo is located in West Kankakee. He works as the Economic Development Navigator for the Economic and Community Development Agency. Time management, communication, and attentiveness to detail have always been his greatest skillset throughout his range of roles. He has worked in various industries ranging from a shift supervisor in local restaurants to assisting in the dentistry field, to the most recent venture of stabilizing training in the microbiology field, all while completing his degree in finance. Leo has always loved numbers and being able to overcome obstacles thrown in his way. His main focus right now is building a solid foundation for his family. Leo looks forward to seeing the smiles of the people and fellow Kankakee folk he helps.
Yorelly Villagomez resides in the Kankakee area as Kankakee has always been home to her. She has worked at the City of Kankakee’s Economic and Community Development Agency since 2019 as a bilingual Intake Specialist/Secretary. Her role is to assist community members through the process of applying for ECDA’s programs. She is also certified as a lead inspector. Yorelly graduated from Kankakee Community College with her associate’s degree and is looking forward to continuing her education this fall. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family and being able to help her community.
PUBLIC SERVICE NAVIGATOR
Marlena Kalafut is the Public Service Navigator at the Economic and Community Development Agency. She provides assistance to nonprofits and community agencies as they prepare applications and reports for ECDA’s Public Service and American Rescue Plan Public Service grant programs. Marlena is particularly passionate about creating processes that are efficient and effective, and working with agencies to transform our community and help folks thrive. After graduating from Olivet Nazarene University in 2019, she began studying at University of Illinois at Chicago and worked as an intern at ECDA before starting her current position. She earned her master’s in social work in May 2022. Marlena loves coffee, planning, traveling, playing video games, and spending time with her family.
Devyn Forquer is located in Kankakee, and she is the Economic and Community Development Agency’s Grant Assistant. Her role consists of handling daily operations and accounting; she takes pride in her work ethic and ability to complete tasks in a timely manner. Devyn graduated from Governors State University in 2018 with her Bachelor of Arts in Communication and recently completed her Digital Marketing certification from University of California – Berkeley in 2021. As a lifelong learner, she is passionate about education, helping others, and is always up for a challenge! Devyn enjoys exercising, shopping, and spending time with her loved ones.
Miya Petitgoue is a Kankakee 4th Ward resident, working with the City of Kankakee's Economic and Community Development Agency (ECDA) as the Program Manager for Healthy Homes. Miya has her BSW from Olivet Nazarene University and her MSW with a concentration in Leadership and Social Change from the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana). She comes to ECDA with experience operating grant programs for non-profit organizations and community involvement through local social service agencies. Miya's passion is helping individuals see their strengths so they can use that to become all they are capable of. She believes that this revelation on the individual level is the foundation of a healthy community. Miya is married and loves enjoying nature with her husband. If she cannot be outside, she loves to read with her cat nearby. In this new role, Miya is looking forward to utilizing Healthy Homes funding to impact the quality of life for residents in Kankakee.