About Rick Guzman
Rick Guzman has served as Assistant Chief of Staff for the City of Aurora since 2011, working on issues like housing, development and neighborhood planning for the office of Mayor Tom Weisner during a time of substantial growth and change. Rick spent 8 years working for the State of Illinois as both a Policy Advisor to the Governor and as the Governor-appointed director of the state’s prisoner reentry reform efforts.
Rick is a licensed attorney and a passionate social entrepreneur. He continues to serve on numerous Boards and Commissions working on public policy issues in state and local government, in the private sector and in the non-profit world. He and his wife, Desiree, live near downtown Aurora with their two young daughters.
Rick was born in 1977. The eldest son of a father born in the Philippines with Filipino and Spanish ancestry and a Caucasian mother of primarily English and Scotch-Irish ancestry, Rick grew up attending a multicultural church on the East Side of Aurora. As a teenager, Rick helped start a bilingual worship service to bring Anglo and Latino congregants together. He led music in both English and Spanish almost every week for nearly 10 years.
Rick graduated summa cum laude from North Central College in Naperville, receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Public Policy. In 2012, Rick was awarded the Outstanding Alumni Service Award by the college.
In 1999, Rick was hired as an Assistant Policy Advisor for the Governor of Illinois. He spent several years advising the Governor on Economic Development before being promoted to Senior Policy Advisor and focusing on Criminal Justice.
Serving under both Republican and Democratic administrations gave Rick a unique perspective on the function of executive government offices. He considers himself independent. Rick’s emphasis is on inclusion and collaboration among stakeholders wherever possible.
During his time in the Illinois Governor’s Office, Rick staffed the Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment and assisted with recommendations regarding the future of the Death Penalty in Illinois following the Governor’s moratorium on executions. He also worked with Deputy Governor & Illinois Homeland Security Director Matt Bettenhausen on issues of criminal justice, civil rights, homeland security, law enforcement, parole, military affairs, and public safety by writing briefings, writing reviews and making recommendations to the Governor on legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly as well as working with the Criminal Code Re-write and Reform Commission and the Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes. Rick’s other responsibilities included surrogating for the Deputy Governor and Governor Ryan at board meetings, television/media events and speaking engagements.
Rick and his wife, Desiree, founded Aurora-based non-profit Emmanuel House in 2002. Emmanuel House inverts typical perspectives on “charity” by using a unique social enterprise model that empowers those in need and generates a return on investment.
By renting at an Emmanuel House property for two years, families who are working, but lack funds to buy a home, are able to save enough of their own money to become first-time homeowners. Families pay the same market rate rent that they always have, but by partnering extensively with several local non-profits, churches, businesses, the efficiencies created through the “networked savings” program allows lower-income families to save substantial down-payments and extensively prepare for homeownership. Private investors who provide the down-payments that the properties Emmanuel House uses own them outright and mortgage-free after 15 years. And neighborhoods across the city benefit from an increased percentage of homeowners – who increase property values, strengthen neighborhood relationships and safety, and begin accruing wealth for themselves and greater opportunity for their children.
In 2016, Emmanuel House was chosen by the Classy Awards as one of the 100 most innovative social enterprises on the planet. The organization serves as an excellent example of Rick’s approach to social problems of every sort: When we combine our gifts and our resources, unique solutions emerge that weren’t possible. We can do more together.
In 2004, Rick was chosen by the Governor of Illinois to direct Illinois’ prisoner reentry reform efforts. As Manager of the Office of Reentry Management at the Illinois Department of Corrections, Rick was charged with oversight of all non-law-enforcement reentry services for Illinois’ nearly 40,000 adult and juvenile parolees through management of the DOC’s six regional Placement Resource Unit offices and more than 50 staff. Rick also served on the Governor and IDOC Director commissions and committees.
Rick graduated magna cum laude from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 2009. He passed the bar exam after receiving his Juris Doctor, making him a fully qualified attorney.
While in law school and in the years immediately following, Rick worked as a consultant for the State of Illinois and for a number of local non-profit organizations. Upon graduation from NIU, he was honored with the Thurgood Marshall Award for Equal Justice and Social Change.
Since 2011, Rick served as Assistant Chief of Staff to current Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner. Initially hired for his expertise on housing, development and urban planning, Rick has also acted as the City’s primary liason to Aurora’s non-profit and faith communities. He has played a role in many of the city’s key projects over the last 5 years, building strong relationships with Aurora’s public servants and private stakeholders as well as with partner agencies and private investors from outside the city.
When Rick announced his candidacy for mayor in April 2016, many of these partners and stakeholders became his first supporters and most vocal advocates.
What does a mayor really do?
American government is organized in three distinct branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The mayor heads the executive branch of government at the city level. While the mayor is still a representative – we chose him or her in an election, after all – the mayor’s primary job is not discussion, connection or even advocacy. It’s action.
While those in legislative government might need to be skilled networkers and powerful speakers in order to advocate for those they represent, an executive job like mayor calls for different skills. Executives are researchers, planners, strategists and managers. If a mayor’s office is run well, big things can happen for relatively little cost.
If not, the city stalls.
Rick Guzman has worked in the Aurora mayor’s office as Assistant Chief of Staff since 2011. His approach to executive government is built on 3 simple principles:
No matter who you are, your work and your voice impact the city in a very real way. The more we can harness the work and passion already present in Aurora’s residents, the more results we will achieve.
That’s why Rick’s campaign is starting with a “listening tour.” The more we can include in our efforts, the more powerful those efforts will become.
Rick believes in careful stewardship of city money. Government is often at its worst when it “throws money at a problem.” But government is at its best when it unlocks the potential that exists in many people coming together.
That’s why most of Rick’s successful efforts have revolved around creative innovation. When a mayor can see the big picture and offer unique ways for private citizens to collaborate, everybody wins. And that’s how we do more with less.
Aurora is a city like no other. Arts and recreation, architecture and technology all are on par with the very best in Illinois – and often for a fraction of the cost! There is no better time for homeowners, business owners and entrepreneurs to invest with us. But they have to know.
Rick believes that marketing Aurora is a key move going forward. That means general communications to the public and potential homebuyers – but it also means a mayor who understands how to collaborate with businesses and developers ready to bring new capital to our community. Aurora has a unique window to attract outside investment. That window is open now.
We can seize the opportunity in front of us today. Or we can let it pass Aurora by.