CHICAGO — Latino leaders in elected and appointed positions are gathering in downtown Chicago for a three-day conference.

The focus is on creating better opportunities for Latinos across the state of Illinois and country. 

NALEO, which stands for National Association of Latino Elected Officials, is one of the largest gatherings of Latino policy makers and elected and appointed officials. 

The goal of the organization is to facilitate meaningful exchange of ideas and foster solutions around some of the most pressing policy issues.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot welcomed the hundreds in attendance and echoed how representation is necessary at every level of government because those policymakers make a difference in how resources are spent and how policies are being implemented. 

With Latinos making up the second largest population in Chicago, Lightfoot said she has been intentional about appointing people of this community throughout her administration. 

“That is why I’ve appointed Eileen Velasquez to be the chief officer for our city, making sure we spend $3.5 billions every year,” she said. “It is eye towards equity and creating opportunities for people of color and the Latinx community.”

Governor JB Pritzker said he believes that Latino voices are critical to add valuable perspectives.

“We’re a better state and a better nation when our government looks like, acts like and fights for the working families that we serve,” Pritzker said.

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Vice President Kamala Harris is slated to speak at the conference Friday.

It is the first in-person conference since 2019. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the conference in 2020 and 2021.