Equality Illinois Names Legislative Affairs Expert as New Public Policy Director
State’s largest LGBT organization also names new development associate
CHICAGO (January 9, 2015) – Michael Ziri, a veteran in legislative affairs and a Springfield elected official, is the new Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, the organization announced Friday.
Ziri will spearhead an aggressive legislative agenda in Springfield, build and strengthen relationships with officials and political leaders throughout the state and in Washington, D.C., and develop policy initiatives. He will also staff the election-related activities of the Equality Illinois Political Action Committee.
The organization also named Sara Jo Malinske, an experienced fundraiser and event planner, to the Equality Illinois development team.
Ziri brings to Equality Illinois seven years of experience working for Illinois state government, capped by his current position as the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. His previous positions included legislative liaison for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, legislative analyst for the governor’s office, and legal assistant for the EPA.
He is also serving his second term as Trustee of the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, which he will be leaving shortly after joining Equality Illinois. In that position, Ziri was the first openly gay elected official in Sangamon County.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Mike to our Equality Illinois team of professionals. He brings with him a wealth of experience implementing a legislative agenda, building connections with lawmakers, legislative staff and executive agencies, engaging in electoral campaigns–including running his own–and building coalitions around policy priorities,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
A native of Springfield, Ziri, 32, earned his bachelor’s degree at Illinois College in Jacksonville and his master’s degree at the University of Illinois Springfield.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy praised the appointment. “Mike will be a great asset,” Cassidy said. “His experience in state government will allow us to continue to work as effective coalition partners and keep moving our community forward.”
“I am excited and honored to join the Equality Illinois team and work with its dedicated professionals to advance full LGBT equality in Illinois and nationally,” Ziri said. “Illinois has made significant advancements in equality, but we still have more work to do. We must continue to educate and advocate for equal treatment in Illinois and Washington, D.C. I look forward to joining the fight.”
Prior to joining Equality Illinois, Malinske most recently worked at The Harbour, in Park Ridge, Illinois, which provides emergency shelter and transitional housing for homeless youth. Raised in central New Jersey, Malinske, 23, earned her bachelor’s degree at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She also spent 8 months in Nanyuki, Kenya doing communications work for a nonprofit secondary school for girls. She will report to Equality Illinois Director of Development Michael Nordman.
“I am thrilled to bring the skills and insights that I have gained through my experiences working with various aspects of development and in diverse regions around the country and the world to support the important work of Equality Illinois,” Malinske said.
Ziri and Malinske are joining Equality Illinois at “a challenging time in the fight for LGBT rights,” Cherkasov said. “We face a new administration in Illinois and a new Congress in Washington, and this is no time for backsliding on the significant accomplishments of recent years. At the same time we have to continue to fight for protections for the transgender community and LGBT minors, help seniors live with dignity, and achieve on the national level what we have done here in Illinois. Mike is the right person to help us with our policy mission, and Sara Jo will be an asset in strengthening our organization in order to accomplish it.”