Lerda Built ILC into a Strong Nonprofit Immigration Law Firm
Media Release | September 18, 2019
In his last weeks as ILC’s executive director, Emiliano Lerda said that looking back at his eight-year tenure, the ultimate measure of his success is how well the organization will do after he leaves.
“The organization today is a very strong and resilient organization that will continue to thrive in the future. Our organization is ‘ILC Strong,’ — not ‘Emiliano Strong.’ It’s not strong because of one person that works here, it’s strong because of everybody who works here including the board volunteers and community supporters. What should be emphasized is how lucky we have been to be in this journey together,” he said. “Thanks to the generosity of the community and the guidance and support of our board, we have been able to grow in our capacity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of new neighbors who will not have to live in fear. Rather, they’ll be able to use their skills and talents to contribute to a healthier, richer, and more vibrant community in Nebraska and southwest Iowa.”
Board of Directors Praises Lerda’s Accomplishments
Board chair-elect Mary Umberger praised Emiliano’s fund-raising skills, ability to motivate others and “bring energy into a situation,” and overall outstanding leadership.
“He’s really good at letting other people take the lead. He has built an organization that—as much as we don’t want him to leave because we love him and because he’s so good at what he does—there’s not a person on the board who’s worried about where ILC will end up,” she said.
Emiliano’s last day with ILC will be October 4. Jim Clements will begin serving as interim executive director October 1. Jim has been working with Emiliano and the leadership team of ILC as executive coordinator and general counsel for the past two years. The board of directors has created a committee that has begun the search for a new executive director.
Diversity, Innovation, and Philanthropy Continue to Drive His Career
In his new position, Emiliano will work with Omaha community leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists Annette and Paul Smith to help them execute a variety of projects, with a focus on Millwork Commons, and to provide some support on philanthropic matters.
“Millwork Commons is a diverse and collaborative office and residential community designed to inspire and support innovators and creators.” he said. “I am very excited about this opportunity to continue to learn and grow personally and professionally while continuing to build a diverse and inclusive community.”
An Immigrant who Chose to Build a Welcoming Community
Emiliano is a native of Argentina who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, and graduated from Drake University Law School in Des Moines. He has said he was drawn to the Midwest because its agricultural environment is evocative of his native Cordoba province. Emiliano also obtained a master of laws (LL.M.) at the University of Arkansas and completed an executive education program at Harvard Business School. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he taught Immigration, Law & Latinos for the 2012-2013 term. Emiliano participated in the Nonprofit Executive Institute and Leadership Omaha Class 36 and was an honoree in Omaha Jaycee’s “Ten Outstanding Young Omahans of 2017.”
After joining the organization as executive director, Emiliano guided ILC through significant growth, a name change from Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska to Immigrant Legal Center, and a move to our larger facility after successful completion of the associated capital campaign.
“We saw an organization that went from being a small, fledgling nonprofit with one location, three full-time staff, and an annual operating budget of approximately $250,000, to an organization that has 48 full-time employees and a building of our own plus eight satellite office locations throughout Nebraska and southwest Iowa, with an annual operating budget in excess of $3.6 million,” he said, adding that he’s proud of ILC’s reputation, national credibility and presence. Emiliano emphasizes, however, that he didn’t build the organization alone.
“I think it’s almost been like a cosmic miracle, that all the stars aligned at the right time with a very capable staff, a skillful and committed board, and a supportive and generous philanthropic community when our newest neighbors needed it most,” he said. “Throughout our journey and our growth we always went back to our north star, and that was what was in the best interest of our clients.”