Kelwin Harris is a public speaker, city planner, and civic engagement professional who focuses on creating equitable communities, empowering people that have been historically excluded from connectivity, and dismantling inequality in Chicago. Kelwin has over 15 years of experience working at the city, county, and regional levels of Illinois government and in grassroots community development. Kelwin uses an urban planning and equity lens to combat multiple facets of systematic policies that produced housing segregation and the racial wealth gap. Drawing from his experience as a community leader on the South Side of Chicago, he offers strategies and interventions for the road ahead while translating complex social issues into things people care about around the kitchen table to inspire change.

Civic engagement

Kelwin is the current Director of Outreach and Engagement for the Cook County Assessor’s Office, which is responsible for valuing the county’s nearly 2 million properties fairly. Prior to the Assessor’s Office, Kelwin was Senior Outreach Planner for the The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) where he led public engagement for Chicago’s regional plan, ON TO 2050. Other projects include: North Lawndale Quality-of-Life Plan, South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative, and Robbins Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and Industrial Area Plan. In addition, Kelwin led the organization’s Human and Community Development Committee, a multi-sector group of equity-focused public and private professionals and community leaders that guided the Chicago region’s inclusive growth and health equity strategies.

Community Development

Kelwin held numerous leadership roles with a social justice and outreach-focused church – St. Sabina. His work included community organizing and directing social services for the Auburn Gresham neighborhood in addition to leading programs to upskill residents, address food and housing insecurity, and combat violence. Kelwin also served as Executive Director of the church’s non-profit partner, The Beloved Community, where he led an Ivy League college exposure program for underserved high school students. Early in his career, Kelwin served the City of Chicago as Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley and Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for Human Infrastructure where he led the transformation of Chicago’s notorious public housing stock.

Professional Development

Kelwin was a 2020 IMPACT Fellow with the Chicago Urban League and a 2018 Marshall Memorial Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He was also a member of the 2018 cohort of the US – Mexico Leaders Initiative in Mexico City with the Center for American Progress. Kelwin also participated in the 2019 “Build the Bench” Candidate Training Program led by United States Representative, Cheri Bustos (IL-17) designed to prepare underrepresented leaders for public office. Kelwin is a fellow with the royal society for arts, manufactures, and commerce (The RSA).


Kelwin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in City & Regional Planning from Cornell University where he studied for a semester in Rome, Italy in 1998 with the Cornell-in-Rome Program. He has a Master in Urban Planning Degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he contributed to the publication Shan Shui City: Urban Development in Wenzhou, China. Kelwin also holds a Professional Certificate in Municipal Finance from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. He attended high school at The Francis W. Parker School in Chicago in Lincoln Park.

Volunteer and service

Kelwin serves on the Board of Directors of the Acero Schools network and serves on the Public Policy Committee of the Urban Land Institute of Chicago.

Kelwin lives on the South Side of Chicago in the Historic Pullman neighborhood. He enjoys reading, collecting vinyl records, curating an Ebony and Jet magazine collection, and finding new trails to bike. Kelwin is a Jazz and Hip Hop enthusiast (expert if you ask him) and can even be found DJing weddings at venues throughout the Midwest.

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