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Meet the Commissioners

Welcome to the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Since 1979, the Commission has served the needs of incapacitated adults, through its Office of State Guardian, and all other persons with disabilities through the Human Rights Authority and the Legal Advocacy Service. Please visit the rest of our web site to get important information about the work that we do.

Dr. Mary L. Milano
Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission

The Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission is comprised of eleven citizens appointed by the Governor for three-year terms. These Commissioners serve in a voluntary capacity to govern the agency, and are selected for a particular of expertise. An annual election is held at the end of each fiscal year, at which time the Commissioners elect a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer. Members of the Commission are:

Sonni Choi Williams - Chairperson

Sonni Choi Williams currently serves and works as the City Attorney for the City of Lockport, Illinois since being appointed in June of 2017. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Williams worked for the City of Peoria for over 17 years. She has over 20 years of experience in municipal law and litigation of civil state and federal tort and injunction cases including arguing before state and federal appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court. 

Ms. Williams was admitted to the practice in 1999; U.S. District Courts: Central District-IL in 2002 and Northern District-IL in 2017; U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit in 2007; and U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.  She received her J.D. from the Northern Illinois University College of Law in 1999 and her B.A. in history from the University of Iowa in 1994. Ms. Williams was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism from 2005 to 2016 and to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission Hearing Board, currently as a Panel Chair presiding over attorney disciplinary cases. She is a member of the American Bar Association; National Asian Pacific American Bar Association; Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA); Illinois Local Government Lawyers Association (ILGL); Will County Bar Association; Will County Women's Bar Association; Black Bar Association of Will County; Peoria County Bar Association; and DuPage County Bar Association. Ms. Williams served two terms on the ISBA Assembly, two terms as an ISBA Board of Governor (2012-2018), and on the ILGL Board from 2013-2019. She currently serves on the boards of Korean-American Bar Association of Chicago; Asian-American Bar Association Chicago, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE); Prairie State Legal Services, Northern Illinois University College of Law Board of Visitors, and Lockport Township High School Foundation Board. She was appointed as a chair of the ISBA's Local Government Law Section Council, as a vice-chair of the ISBA's Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law, and a member of the ISBA's Leadership Academy Governing Board.

Awards include 2020 Northern Illinois University College of Law Alumna of the Year Award; 2014-2015 ISBA Diversity Leadership Award; 2010 ISBA Board of Governors Award; 2008 ILGL Annual Achievement Award; and 2006 NIU College of Law Young Alumnus of the Year Award.

She is an active member of Lockport's Rotary Club and Lockport Woman's Club. 

Donald J. Dew, MSW, ACSW - Vice Chairperson

Donald J. Dew is President/CEO of Habilitative Systems, Inc. (HSI), a vital Chicago-based behavioral health and human services organization providing programs and services for thousands of children and families with special needs. Since his appointment in 1990, HSI's budget has increased from $6.5 million to approximately $9.5 million in 2020, signaling a significant increase in services to Chicago area residents during an adverse economic period.

During his leadership tenure, Habilitative Systems has also employed thousands of workers with disabilities that have manufactured pillows for various airlines and Amtrak, managed a ServiceMaster franchise and assembled 8,000 collector telephones for the 1996 Democratic National Convention.  Further, he secured over 20 million dollars over the past two decades from HUD and the Chicago Department of Housing to develop 160 units of senior and disability housing.  In 2017, Dew secured a $4.5 million multiyear contract from the Cook County Health and Hospital Systems to provide Mental Health, Opioid Screening and Wellness services through the development of the Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center in partnership with the Bobby E, Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Services. In 2020, HSI received the largest allocation of funds totaling $4.5 million dollars from the Illinois Department of Human Services Census initiative to serve as Regional Intermediary for the Counting on Chicago Coalition 2020, in collaboration with 30 partnering organizations.

Mr. Dew brings to this position forty-two years of professional experience and a vast knowledge of the programs and demands of health and human services. He received his Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree in 1980 from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois; B.A in Social Work from Lewis University in 1978, where he previously served as Graduate Adjunct Faculty for Organizational Leadership within the College of Arts and Sciences.  He also has earned Certificates in Business Administration from UIC and Harvard University Business School's Perspectives in Non Profit Leadership.  

Mr. Dew is a member of the International Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities Board of Trustees, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Black Social Workers, and Academy of Certified Social Workers.  He was the past Presiding Chair, of the inaugural African-American Family Commission under Governor Edgar, board member for Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital Board of Directors, and UIC Department of Disability and Human Development. Mr. Dew has also been a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. since 1975.

Senator Julie Morrison

State Senator Julie Morrison has dedicated her time as a lawmaker to bettering the lives of all Illinoisans — especially members of the state's most vulnerable communities.

As chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, Morrison passed a measure to expand court protections for people with disabilities, worked to make it easier for victims of domestic violence to report abuse, and continues to call on the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to find ways to best serve our state's at-risk youth.

Morrison fights for the people served by a number of human services agencies, most notably DCFS. Additionally, she has been a steadfast ally and supporter of the developmental and intellectual disabilities communities and pushes for funding to support autism services, sexual assault programs and mental health supportive housing.

In the past, Morrison has also publicly questioned state bureaucrats after reports of abuse within group homes for adults with disabilities and fought to ensure Illinois' extensive human services network received funding during the continued budget impasse several years ago.

Morrison continues to fight to make state government more transparent and accountable to the residents of Illinois. Ethics reform for legislators and lobbyists is a top priority. She passed a rule that placed term limits on Senate leadership positions and is working with non-partisan groups who are trying to end political gerrymandering so that Illinoisans get to choose their representatives – not the other way around.

Senator Morrison is the chair of the Human Services Committee and holds a seat on the local government, environment and conservation, public health, oversight Medicaid managed care, and transportation committees. She served as a member of the Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference Health and Human Services Committee for 2019-2020.

Morrison was born in the downstate community of Beardstown and graduated from Knox College. After serving on the DCFS advisory council, she took the position of supervisor of West Deerfield Township, which she held for 15 years.

She lives with her husband, Joe, in Lake Forest. The couple has 3 grown children.

Senator Tom Bennett

Senator Bennett has served as the State Representative for the 106th Representative District since 2015 and serves all or parts of Bureau, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, LaSalle, Livingston, Marshall, McLean, Peoria, Putnam, Tazewell, Woodford, and Will Counties. His district consists of approximately 215,000 people living in over 120 villages, towns, and communities. Agriculture, manufacturing, small business and labor, education and energy are keys to the area’s growth and prosperity. There are over 30 K thru 12 and K thru 8 school districts in the 53rd District. Several education opportunities exist for people in the district with access to the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Eureka College and 7 community colleges throughout the district. A number of residents work at the Correctional Centers in Pontiac and Danville.

Senator Bennet is the fourth of five children raised on a small farm near Gibson City. His father became a farmer after serving the Pacific during World War II. His mother went to Illinois State University and taught her first year in a one-room schoolhouse. They stressed that education was key to the future. Bennett taught high school and junior high science for seven years and then worked as a manager, computer software developer and trainer at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington for the next 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Science an MBA, and Doctor of Business Administration. He and wife Kathy have two grown children and five grandchildren. Senator Bennett values education and supports economic development, business growth and the 2nd amendment. He believes we need to live withing our means and provide the environment that will help everyone reach their goals and dreams.

Representative William Q. Davis

Will Davis was born on July 2, 1968 in Harvey, IL. Davis holds a Master of Public Administration Degree from Governors State University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Southern IL University in Carbondale.

Since taking office, Davis' top legislative priorities include education funding, increased health care availability, supplier diversity and economic development. He understands that small businesses are the backbone of our community and has been a vocal advocate for bringing new jobs to our area as well as advocating for workplace equity.

In 2005 Representative Davis helped make Illinois the first state in the nation to guarantee access to quality and affordable health care for all children. Working continuously to improve health care, he has supported actions to address cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, lupus, sickle cell disease and cancer.

In 2017 Illinois took bold steps in the way it funded education. Davis was the chief House sponsor of SB1947, the Evidence-Based Funding model for school funding reform. Illinois adopted an evidenced-based model as a pathway to redefine how it distributes money to school districts. Since its passage, Illinois appropriated millions of new dollars to that effort.

Davis is an Assistant Majority Leader in the 101st General Assembly and serves on several committees in the House of Representatives. Davis serves as the Leadership representative on the Appropriations-Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. He also serves on the following committees: Appropriations-Capital, Appropriations-Public Safety, Energy and Environment, International Trade and Commerce and is Chairman of the Minority/Disadvantage Analysis Subcommittee of the Labor and Commerce Committee. He additionally serves as a Commissioner on the state's Budgeting for Results Commission as well as the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission.

Davis has been recognized with Legislator of the Year awards from the Illinois Association of Code Enforcement, Illinois Primary Healthcare Association, Illinois School Counselor Association and Illinois Association of Park Districts, and the Illinois Association of School Social Workers. Davis is a former Joint Chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and a charter member of Pi Alpha Alpha, the International Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration at Governors State University as well as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

Davis' 30th District includes all or portions of Blue Island, Dixmoor, Dolton, East Hazel Crest Flossmoor, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Markham, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Phoenix, Posen, Riverdale and Robbins.

Davis and his family reside in the village of Homewood.

Anthony E. Rothert

Anthony Rothert is the Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. His previous experience includes six years as a staff attorney with the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission's Legal Advocacy Service. Mr. Rothert received an MSW and his Juris Doctorate from St. Louis University in Missouri. He has taught courses at Sanford Brown College in St. Louis at the Bachelor and Associate Degree levels. An active member of the Bar Associations, he serves on many committees in a variety of capacities, some include; The Committee on Human Rights, The Committee on Law- Related Education for the Public and The Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, The Committee on Mental Health and Committee of Supreme Court Rules. He has been an active member of IGAC's Human Rights Authority in the Metro East Region for the past two years and serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Guardianship Association.

Mary Kennelly

Mary Kennelly was a special education teacher for 17 years at Jacksonville School District 117. 
She also taught at Four Rivers Special Education District and in the City of Chicago Schools.
As a Deaf Blind Specialist for the Phillip J. Rock Center, she worked with infants and preschool children and their families.
As a Work Activities Instructor for the Proviso Association of Retarded Citizens, she worked with adults.
Since retirement, Kennelly has volunteered with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln Land Community College
Adult Literacy Program and the Illinois State Fair. Kennelly earned her BA from MacMurray College, her MEd from the University of Illinois and participated in the Hilton Perkins Training Project at Illinois State University.

Kathryn E. Eisenhart

Kathryn E. Eisenhart joined the faculty of the University of Illinois Springfield in 1992 as a member of the Legal Studies Department. She served as chair several times before she retired in 2014 as Associate Professor Emerita. Before joining the faculty at UIS, she was an associate attorney at Leahy Law Office in Springfield. There were three lawyers, all women, and they took the case of Rutan v. Republic Party to the U.S Supreme Court and won. Her first job as a lawyer was as an attorney with the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission and the not-for-profit Protection and Advocacy, now Equipped for Equality. She is active in the Illinois State Bar Association, having served as chair of the Human Rights Section Council, the Chair of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee and editor of the Human Rights Newsletter. She graduated with a Juris Doctorate from DePaul University College of Law in 1982.

Ava George Stewart

Ava George Stewart is a criminal justice attorney. Born in South Carolina, she has lived most of her life in the Land of Lincoln. She became a Northwestern Wildcat at age 17. By the time she received her B.A. she knew she wanted to permanently live in Illinois. Ava also holds a Masters of Science from Northwestern University, and a J.D. from the University of Illinois, College of Law.

Prior to becoming an attorney, she gained over ten years of management experience as Executive Director at several not-for-profit organizations, with a focus on homeless and disenfranchised women and children throughout Chicagoland. In addition to managing her law firm, Ava also teaches Appellate Advocacy and Advocacy at The UIC John Marshall Law School.

ISBA involvement has been a core aspect of Ava’s career. Ava has been an active member of the ISBA since 2003. She has served on the ISBA Board of Governors since 2016. She has been a proud member of ISBA Mutual since the first day she started her firm in 2005. A firm believer in assisting other members of the Bar and supporting Access to Justice, Ava served as a member of the Illinois Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors from 2016-2021.

She is currently serving her 5th term as a member of Scope and Correlation. She has also been honored to serve as a member of the ISBA Assembly. Ava has served as Chair of two substantive section councils including the Traffic Laws and Courts Section Council from 2011-2012 and the Criminal Justice Section Council from 2015-2016. She published several newsletter articles as an active member of Bench and Bar from 2016-2019, the Illinois Bar Journal’s Editorial Board from 2010-2018; Marketing and Communications from 2015-2018; The Solo and Small Firm Planning Committee (2015-2017); and the Special Committee on Member Services in 2017. Additionally, Ava has been delighted to serve as Board Liaison to the following: Criminal Justice Section, Human Rights Section, Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics, Illinois Bar Journal--Editorial Board, Standing Committee on Member Services, Standing Committee on Corrections and Sentencing, Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), and the Standing Committee on Women and the Law.

Outside of ISBA leadership, Ava serves as a Board member for The Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2016-present), Women Everywhere, (2012-present), and Green City Market (2020-present). Previously, she served the Black Women Lawyer’s Association (BWLA) as a Board Member-At-Large (2016-2018). She also served on the Scholarship Board for BWLA. She is a founding member, and a lifetime member, of the Women’s Criminal Defense Bar Association, a past Board member of Minority Legal Education Resources (MLER), a member of the Chicago Lincoln Inn of Court, the Cook County Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.

Ava enjoys spending time with her husband of twenty years, Alistair George Stewart. You can often find them exploring the outdoors, fly fishing, and baking bread. In her spare time, Ava is a Master Gardener and enjoys canning-preserving homegrown fruit and pickled vegetables.