WomenIn Communications Speaker Bios

Avis LaVelle

Avis LaVelleAvis LaVelle is the founder of A. LaVelle Consulting Services (ALCS). She formerly served as President of the Business Leadership Council. She formerly served as VP of Corporate Affairs for Northstar Lottery Group with responsibility for external affairs activities for Northstar and the Illinois Lottery which Northstar managed. She had oversight for Media Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Employee Volunteer Engagement. Avis LaVelle founded her firm, A. LaVelle Consulting Services (ALCS) in 2003, and continues to provide a select number of clients with the benefit of her extensive experience in the public and private sectors with the strategies she recommends. Her company was instrumental in market-entry efforts for international firms such as Bombardier, North America and Cintra-Macquarie, operators of the Chicago Skyway.

Under LaVelle’s leadership, ALCS helped to lead grassroots outreach campaigns that led to the reform of “payday loan store” practices and electric energy rate deregulation. ALCS also worked closely with Chicago’s charter school movement in efforts to win community support for new, smaller schools targeted to communities in need.

For ACCESS Community Health Network, Avis led communications and outreach efforts that have resulted in mobilizing more than 250,000 African-American and Hispanic women to participate in “Pin-A-Sister Sunday”-- a breast health awareness ceremony in their churches on Mother’s Day.

LaVelle’s skills were cultivated as a senior reporter in Chicago, one of the nation’s largest media markets, covering current events and political campaigns of significant local and national importance.

She later became Press Secretary to Mayor Richard M. Daley with oversight for more than two-dozen city departments and strategic and crisis communications for major initiatives such as workforce privatization, the Lake Calumet Airport and the Chicago Flood. LaVelle left the Daley administration to become National Press Secretary for the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign. In that role, LaVelle designed and implemented grassroots community outreach strategies to inform members of multiple ethnic and geographic constituencies on campaign activities through strategic use of community and foreign language print, radio and television.

Following the campaign, LaVelle became U.S. Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs under the Clinton Administration. There LaVelle supervised a staff of more than 500 communications professionals at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and directed the rollout of major national health marketing initiatives such as the Childhood Immunization Program and the FDA’s Food Nutrition Labeling initiative under Secretary Donna Shalala.

LaVelle has also been a senior executive of private sector entities such as Waste Management, Inc. and University of Chicago Hospitals (UCH); She had responsibility for communications, community and media relations and advocacy for such major initiatives as the marketing rollout of the Blue Bag Recycling program; health care funding advocacy, and community relations for land acquisition.

LaVelle was a six-year member of the Chicago Cable Television Commission and a seven- year member of the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, five as Vice-President.

Avis holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Keller School of Management and bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Illinois, Urbana. She lives in the Hyde Park community with husband, Osekre and son, Robert.

Anel Ruiz

Anel RuizAnel Ruiz is the Senior Vice President of Culloton Bauer Luce and is a versatile communications strategist with extensive experience at the highest levels of city and county government as well as in nonprofit management.

Prior to joining CBL, Ruiz served as Press Secretary for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, leading communications strategy as the city faced crisis after crisis—including the longest teachers’ strike in decades, the COVID-19 pandemic, and protests and civil unrest.

Ruiz previously served as deputy chief of staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, overseeing policy development and managing the County’s Bureau of Economic Development, Justice Advisory Council, Commission on Human Rights & Ethics, as well as the Commission on Women’s Issues. She also has served as the public affairs director for the Chicago Department of Public Health where she led teams that consistently produced innovative and award-winning marketing and digital campaigns.

In addition to her public service, Ruiz honed her operations and fundraising skills in the nonprofit sector at Free Spirit Media and the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Ruiz received her undergraduate degree in political science from Augustana College. She is a 2014 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow and a 2016 Civic Leadership Academy Fellow.

Marjani Williams

Marjani WilliamsMarjani Williams is the Deputy Director of the Illinois Office of Communications and Information at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). She oversees the Department’s strategic internal and external communications as well as public information dissemination and audio/visual services provided to all State agencies.

Prior to serving at CMS, she worked as Director of Public Information at the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS), leading media relations and critical communications for one of the City’s largest infrastructure departments.

She also previously worked as the communications lead for the HIV/STI and Adolescent Health Bureaus for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Ms. Williams began her career of service in the non-profit sector, in Marketing and community outreach at CEDA, one of the largest Community Action Agencies in the country.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Relations from Eastern Illinois University and graduated cum laude from DePaul University with a master’s degree in Public Relations and Advertising. She currently lives in Chicago and enjoys traveling and spending time with her son.