U.S. Marine Corps veteran is first Latino to lead IDVA
CHICAGO, IL â€“ Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has appointed Rodrigo Garcia as Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Veteransâ€™ Affairs (IDVA), replacing Erica Borggren, who will head the Illinois Department of Transportation as Acting Secretary, effective July 10, 2014.
GarciaÂ has served as Assistant Director since 2011, where he has presided as second-in-command of IDVA, an agency with more than 1,300 staff members, a $148 million budget, 80 statewide offices and numerous specialty programs dedicated to serving Illinoisâ€™ 744,000 veterans.
â€œRodrigo Garcia is battle-tested, as a Marine as well as IDVAâ€™s Assistant Director,â€ Governor Quinn said. â€œHe understands first-hand what our veterans and military families go through, and he has the leadership and administrative abilities to ensure that Illinois does all it can for our heroes.â€
Pending Illinois Senate confirmation, Garcia will be the first Latino to run the agency since its founding shortly after WWII.
â€œI am sincerely appreciative of the confidence Governor Quinn has placed in me to take the reins at IDVA and continue providing the very best service to our veterans and their families,â€ Acting Director Garcia said. â€œI look forward to the challenges ahead knowing Erica Borggren has represented and supported our veterans to very high standards.Â I know the IDVA team wishes her well with her efforts at IDOT â€“ they are getting a great leader.â€
The son of immigrant parents, Garcia hails from the historic Little Village neighborhood on Chicagoâ€™s south side.Â After graduating from John F. Kennedy High School, Garcia joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning multiple decorations. After his return to Illinois, he became a staunch advocate for student veterans, founding the Student Veterans Club at Northeastern Illinois University and rising to the pinnacle leadership position at Student Veterans of America (SVA). Garcia was a member of the Illinois Veterans Advisory Council from 2010-2011 and was recognized as the Illinois Veteran of the Month for September 2010 prior to joining IDVA.
At IDVA, Garciaâ€™s leadership and team-building have resulted in expanded employment opportunities for veterans, additional procurement opportunities for veteran-owned businesses, the design of the Chicago Veteransâ€™ Home, and in-state tuition and priority registration for student veterans. He also serves as the Chair of the Board of Appeals and the Chair of the Illinois Discharged Servicemember Task Force.
Outside IDVA, Garcia is National Chairman of theÂ Board of Directors for Student Veterans of America (SVA)Â and National Hispanic Life Sciences Society (NHLSS), and Board Vice President for Teatro Vista Theatre Company. Garcia has also been named one of the “Top 100 under 50” Executive Leaders by Diversity MBA Magazine and as one of Miller Coors’ nationwide “Hispanic Lideres”, was the recipient of President Obama’s Council on Service and Civic Participation “Call to Service Award” and was recognized as a “Rising Star” by the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s and a “Club Leader of the Future” by Latino Lideres Magazine, amongst other recognitions.
Garcia holds an undergraduateÂ degree in finance from Northeastern Illinois University and two post-graduate degrees, one in business administration fromÂ the University of Illinois at Chicago and the other in public policy from Northwestern University. Recently, he also completed a senior executives program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.