Director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Kristin A. Richards was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) by Governor JB Pritzker in January 2023. In this capacity, Richards oversees the Department’s mission of spurring equitable economic development and creating a positive economic climate to attract job creators, support Illinois’ skilled workforce and bolster communities to improve the quality of life and provide economic opportunities for Illinoisans across the state. DCEO’s diverse portfolio includes leading the state’s business attraction and expansion efforts, issuing capital infrastructure grants to spur economic development in communities, providing Illinoisans with utility bill assistance, and leading the state’s tourism efforts, among others.
Richards has spent more than two decades as a public servant for the State of Illinois where she garnered a reputation for solving complex issues by working closely with stakeholders to forge strong coalitions. Prior to joining DCEO, Richards served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) where she led the state’s pandemic response for Illinoisans affected by job loss. In that role, she created and implemented new, complex federal pandemic-era unemployment insurance programs.
Throughout her career, Richards has held various leadership roles in the executive and legislative branches – serving three governors and serving as Chief of Staff for two Senate presidents. In her time with the Illinois Senate, she led the state’s budget-making process for seven consecutive years and played a critical role in bipartisan negotiations that ended a two-year budget impasse – restoring critical programs and putting the state on the path toward fiscal stability.
Richards was raised in Belleville, Illinois, and currently resides in Chicago.