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 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.
Miya Petitgoue is the Assistant Director of the Economic and Community Development Agency for the City of Kankakee. She 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). Miya is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) with the State of Illinois. She comes to ECDA with experience operating grant programs for non-profit organizations and community involvement through local social service agencies. In her role, Miya works with the ECDA team to administer programming that assists Kankakee residents and business owners. 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. She a Kankakee 4th Ward resident with her husband, Andrew, and cats, Phoebe and Clarence.
LEAD PROGRAM MANAGER
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 Lead Program Manager. Her primary responsibilities involve leading ECDA’s Lead Poisoning Prevention and Abatement Program. Jan earned an associate’s degree in liberal studies from Kankakee Community College 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. She 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: 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.
HEALTHY HOMES PROGRAM MANAGER
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. Her role as the Healthy Homes Program Manager is to help community members have better quality housing to live safely in their home. Yorelly graduated in Kankakee High School and earned her associate’s degree from Kankakee Community College. She is looking forward to continuing her education and to getting more training to learn additional ways to help the community and those who apply through our office. Yorelly is passionate about helping others achieve their goals in any way she is able. During her free time, she spends time with family and tries to keep up with her daughter’s busy schedule.
CDBG PROGRAM MANAGER
Marlena Temple-Kalafut is the CDBG Program Manager at the Economic and Community Development Agency. Marlena has a bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University and earned her MSW with a specialization in organization and community practice from the University of Illinois (Chicago). She is passionate about creating meaningful impact and creating efficient, effective processes for the work done by the ECDA. Marlena is married and enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee and tea, reading about urban planning, and playing open world video games with her husband.
Devyn Forquer is a Kankakee resident working for the Economic and Community Development Agency as their Project Manager. She oversees the progress and completion of economic development and marketing projects. Devyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Journalism from Governors State University and continued her education to receive a certification in Digital Marketing from University of California – Berkeley. Devyn is passionate for seeking the beauty in everyday life and believes there is always something new to learn. She feels this advantageous outlook will allow her to produce great progress and positive results for her team and the City as a whole. In her free time, she enjoys photography, gardening, cooking, exercising, and spending time with her two cats, Frankie and Ziggy.
Estefania Barajas is the Secretary for the City of Kankakee’s Economic and Community Development Agency. She supports the agency’s programs with outreach, community education, and client activity coordination. Estefania looks forward to helping make a change in her hometown community with a focus on providing and getting the Hispanic community in Kankakee more informed about our available resources. She is a Bishop McNamara Catholic High School graduate and attended Roosevelt University in Downtown Chicago. She looks forward to continuing her education. Estefania is passionate about helping others become the best version of themselves by gaining confidence physically and mentally. She enjoys working out, being outdoors, reading personal development books, and spending as much time with her family as possible.