Home Wisconsin Sí Se Puede 2021: Wisconsin’s 36 Most Influential Latino Leaders, Part 4

Sí Se Puede 2021: Wisconsin’s 36 Most Influential Latino Leaders, Part 4


This is the fourth of a five-part series. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here.

Eduardo Garza Jr. is President and CEO of the Center for Veterans Issues, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that provides housing and supportive services to help improve the quality of life for military veterans, their families, and the communities in which they live and serve. Since joining CVI in May 2019, Garza has raised the center’s community profile and increased funding 25%. The organization has an $8.8 million annual budget, and its supporters include the Helen Bader Foundation, Home Depot, Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee Tool and BMO Harris Bank. During the 2020 Covid shutdown Garza and others kick-started CVI Help, a mobile app that matches vets to service providers. A San Diego native, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1999 and in early 2005 was selected for a direct commission as an intelligence officer. He mobilized to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was a lead Sunni intelligence officer in Iraq from May 2008 to April 2009. He recently completed his active duty obligation as the division officer within Navy Recruiting District Chicago.

Victor Vellecrez currently works as the commercial and development manager for Hovde Properties and was recently named chair of the board of the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce. He started the Madison Cusco Sister City Project and formed Mundo Esperanza, a nonprofit organization with a humanitarian and sustainable mission acting on a local and global level. He also previously served as board chair of Centro Hispano.

Maritza Contreras is strategic partnerships advisor at American Family Insurance, with prior experience at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Maritza is an alumna of the Chicago Public School system and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. She graduated Cum Laude from Marquette University with a B.S. in Nursing and a minor in Information Technology. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition and is actively enrolled in the Future Milwaukee Community Leadership Program. 

Edgar Mendez is a senior staff reporter for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. He won a 2018 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and 2014, 2017, and 2018 Milwaukee Press Club Awards for his reporting on taverns, marijuana law enforcement, and lead in water service lines. In 2008, he won a Society of Professional Journalists’ regional award for columns dealing with issues such as poverty, homelessness and racism. His writing has been published by the Associated Press, Reuters, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media.

Sister Melanie Maczka is a member of the Society of Sisters for the Church and founder of Casa ALBA Melanie, a Hispanic resource center for the greater Green Bay area. She began serving the Hispanic population of Green Bay in 1982 as an associate at St. Willebrord Catholic Parish. In February 2012, after 30 years of serving the Hispanic community of Green Bay, she founded Casa ALBA Melanie to act as a hub for information and referral, bringing together persons seeking assistance with service providers in the community. Casa ALBA resource center serves more than 300 people each month. Sister Maczka has served on several boards of directors, including for the YWCA, Aging and Disability Resource Center, Connecting our Community of Brown County, Migration Advocacy Committee. She has also been in charge of the Leadership and Ministry Program in Spanish of the Diocese of Green Bay. In 2015, at a ceremony held at the National Hispanic Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Sister Melanie received the Ohtli Award, the highest recognition awarded by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Justin Rivas leads community health initiatives for the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, aiming to improve health outcomes and advance health equity through community-wide collaboration. In addition to overseeing Community Health Needs Assessment planning and Health Compass Milwaukee, Justin supports the Partnership’s Racial and Health Equity Council and serves as the program director for the Milwaukee Enrollment Network. Justin previously served as Network Strategist and Community Coach for County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. His role included providing strategic guidance and training in support of data-driven and evidence-based community action planning for health improvement, as well as developing national partnerships aimed at addressing health issues for Latinos. In a prior role at the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Center for AIDS Intervention Research, he coordinated mixed methods health research and led community interventions for underserved populations in Milwaukee. Justin holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as a Master of International Public Affairs degree from the LaFollette School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been an active board member of the Wisconsin Public Health Association and has presented at local, state and national public health conferences.

Rosario Ibarra is general manager of Grotegut Dairy Farm in Manitowoc County. Her dairy career started in 2005 when she was going to school for agronomy at Tecnológico de Monterrey – Campus Querétaro in Mexico because they had a partnership with UW-Madison. The school would bring students from Mexico up to Wisconsin so they could learn about the dairy industry. After stints in Argentina and northwest Wisconsin, she and her husband settled in Manitowoc County where she oversees an operation that cares for 5,000 animals.

Part 5 coming tomorrow!