Benjamin Brockschmidt serves as the executive director of the Infrastructure Council which focuses on transportation systems and public works that are essential to sustaining the Illinois economy: roads and bridges, freight and passenger rail service, waterway shipping, airports as well as access to water and sanitary sewage treatment. He also serves as vice president of policy.
Benjamin came to the Chamber from U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson office where he had been since 2008. He worked with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee which included vote recommendations and briefs on hearings and markups. He was Rep. Johnson’s point staffer on transportation issues for the Illinois Republican Delegation. In addition, he advised local airports, transit operators, engineers, and construction companies on best methods to adapt to federal policy. Benjamin has also developed professional relationships with transportation stakeholders including IDOT, USDOT and private companies in Illinois.
Benjamin graduated from Illinois State University with a dual B.S. degree in political science and history and has his master's degree in national defense and security from the U.S. Naval War College.
Randy Nehrt serves the Illinois Chamber as Vice President of Legislative Relations and as Executive Director of the Energy Council. The Council confronts and addresses energy-related issues critical to Illinois’ future. He is poised to work with members with developments in the energy arena as he has a strong background in energy regulation. Previously, Randy served as the Bureau Chief of External Affairs at the Illinois Commerce Commission starting in 2007. In that capacity, he directed the ICC’s Office of Governmental Affairs, Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Services Division.
Before that, Nehrt held the role of as Deputy Press Secretary for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White for seven years. From 1992 to 1999, he worked with legislators, staff, and interest groups on a broad range of issues as a staff member for Illinois Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan.
Nehrt graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1991 with a bachelor of science degree in finance.
As an attorney licensed to practice law in Madrid, Laura Ortega's most recent position was with the Spain Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Cooperation, Madrid for the Legal Office for Consular Affairs where she supported diplomats in conducting all legal matters relative to national and foreign Consular Offices throughout the world. She also reviewed government protocols for emergencies and managed all petitions for international judicial cooperation. Some of her previous work has been with the Consulate General of Spain-Chicago, the European Union of Counsel-Client Management with Delaney Law – Chicago; and McCORMAC College-Elmhurst.
Laura has a law degree from the University of Cordoba, Spain and a Masters degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from the Diplomatic School, Ministry for Foreign Relations and Cooperation of Spain. She is bi-lingual, with expertise in International Policy and International Client Management.
Jay joined serves as Executive Director of the Council, an organization that he founded in 1997. The Council brings together employers to improve and protect Illinois employment law and regulations to create a political climate conducive to the creation and retention of jobs in Illinois. Jay has held high-profile, senior level lobbying positions with the Associated Employers of Illinois (1987-1996), Central Illinois Public Service Co. (1983-1987) and the Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois (1978-1983). Shattuck is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and is a Certified Association Executive (CAE).
Keith Staats is an attorney who has been handling tax law issues for decades. He previously was the director in Grant Thornton's State and Local Tax (SALT) practice in Chicago, where he was involved in tax planning, consulting, and dispute resolution in all areas of state and local taxation. Prior to joining Grant Thornton in 2010, Keith worked for a large international law firm where he specialized in multistate tax planning, consulting and litigation. No stranger to state government, Keith served as general counsel of the Illinois Department of Revenue, and has testified before legislative committees on proposed tax legislation.
Keith begins his position with the Illinois Chamber's Tax Institute Feb. 5. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and is a professional affiliate member of the Illinois CPA Society. He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association State and Local Tax Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association State and Local Tax Section council. Finally, he is a member, and has served as chairman, of the CPA Society State and Local Tax Committee. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Milllikin University, and graduated with honors from the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law with his law degree.
Staci Wilson comes to the Chamber from the Senate Republican staff where she was the deputy director of committee staff. Graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, she has been employed by the Senate Republican staff for more than 18 years. During this time, she has primarily staffed the Senate Executive Committee, which is considered the political committee of the Senate where high-profile issues are debated. She has participated in state policy negotiations at the highest levels, and helped shape state policy in numerous areas such as telecommunications, gambling, McCormick Place Convention Center re-organization, and public-private partnerships. Staci’s experience gives her a unique perspective on the inner workings of state government and the legislative process.