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Tom Perez Biography

Tom Perez is a nationally recognized civil rights lawyer, public policy leader and Obama administration cabinet Secretary who has spent his entire career in public service at the federal, state and local level. He has held senior leadership positions in a host of key government agencies and nonprofits, focusing on civil rights, labor issues, and immigrant rights. He recently completed a successful four-year tenure as Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Perez took over a DNC in disarray, and overhauled its critical infrastructure, broke fundraising records, and rebuilt voter trust and party unity. His transformation of the DNC enabled Democrats to win key victories across the country, beginning in 2017, and culminating with the historic election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020, following a primary process that featured the largest field in party history.

Prior to chairing the DNC, Perez served in both Obama-Biden administrations, first as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice (2009-2013), and then as Secretary of Labor (2013-2017). In both positions, he assumed the helm of agencies with a critical mission that were underperforming. As AAG for Civil Rights at DOJ, Perez headed up the principal civil rights enforcement agency in the federal government. He spearheaded the restoration and transformation of the Division, which had been decimated in the previous Administration, by dramatically stepping up civil rights enforcement in a wide variety of areas, including police misconduct, hate crimes, human trafficking, fair lending and employment. He oversaw the three largest residential fair lending settlements in the history of the Fair Housing Act, dramatically expanded voting rights enforcement, and was actively involved in the Department’s police reform work. Under his leadership, the Division brought more police cases than ever before, and worked together with police departments and communities alike to transform the culture of policing in communities ranging from Seattle to Albuquerque to New Orleans.

His service as Assistant Attorney General was Mr. Perez’s second tour of duty in the Civil Rights Division. Perez worked in a variety of positions at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1989 to 1999, ranging from career prosecutor to Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He was awarded the Department’s second highest award for his successful prosecution of a group of white supremacists who went on a deadly, racially motivated crime spree in Texas. From 1995 to 1998, Perez was Special Counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, serving as his principal adviser on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. Perez was a member of the team that staffed Senator Kennedy during passage of comprehensive immigration reform in 1996, and drafted the original version of what ultimately became the Byrd-Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

As Secretary of Labor during the second term of the Obama administration, Perez led an agency of 17,000 employees with a budget of $45 billion, whose mission is to ensure and expand opportunity for workers in a variety of settings. Perez was a member of President Obama’s economic team and, under his leadership, DOL put in place critical measures to assist workers, including regulatory initiatives to expand employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, ensuring proper overtime wages, and providing critical consumer protections for retirement savings. Perez also personally settled two major strikes, one involving 15,000 port workers at the west coast ports, and the other a month-long strike involving 40,000 Verizon workers. Perez helped lead a “Future of Work” Initiative to implement innovative solutions for building a 21st century workforce for today’s dynamic global economy. Perez successfully transformed the culture of the Labor Department, by implementing a series of workplace initiatives that resulted in the Department rising to the top quarter in worker satisfaction, and equally importantly, enabled the Department to dramatically increase its effectiveness in carrying out its mission.

Perez served in state government as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) under Governor Martin O’Malley from 2007 through 2009. In this capacity, Perez oversaw a staff of 1,600 employees, and lead an agency whose mission was to enforce consumer protection, worker safety and financial regulations. Perez took over an agency that had been hampered by inefficiency and ineffectiveness, and transformed it into a top tier agency that served as an incubator of innovation for working families and homeowners. Perez served as Governor O’Malley’s point person on the foreclosure crisis and, working with bankers, business leaders, legislators and community activists, crafted a sweeping package of reforms to combat the foreclosure crisis in Maryland. He also led the restructuring of the workforce development system to expand access to critical job training for Maryland workers, and co-chaired the Governor’s Commission on New Americans, creating a comprehensive blueprint for immigrant integration in Maryland.

From 2002 until 2006, Perez was a member of the County Council in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was the first Latino ever elected to the Council, and was ultimately elected President of the Council for 2005. During his tenure, he spearheaded a host of local initiatives designed to improve access to health care for the uninsured, increase the stock of affordable housing, and improve access to quality education for vulnerable children. In addition, he worked very closely with organized labor to expand critical rights for workers. He also chaired the Adult Education Task Force, working with the business community to revamp the delivery of adult education services.

From 2001 to 2007, Perez was a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, where he taught in and ran the School’s nationally recognized clinical law program, and taught in the law and health program. Perez also served on the faculty at the George Washington School of Public Health, where his primary focus was the intersection of health care and civil rights. His projects addressed a range of issues, including diversity, equity and inclusion in the health professions, eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health status, and ensuring access to health care for people with limited English skills. This work was done on behalf of a variety of organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, the Association of American Medical Colleges, The California Endowment, and the Kellogg Foundation.

In addition to his work at the Department of Justice, Perez served the final two years of the Clinton administration as Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this capacity, Perez oversaw the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the health and human services setting, served as Secretary Donna Shalala’s principal civil rights adviser, and led the revitalization of an agency that had been chronically underperforming.

A graduate of Brown University, Harvard Law School (cum laude), and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Perez was a member of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the Sullivan Alliance on Diversifying the Healthcare Workforce, and served on the board of the Center for American Progress. Perez was also a member of the inaugural class of the prestigious Rodel fellowship at the Aspen Institute, which is awarded to elected officials who are considered “rising stars” in government, and demonstrate a capacity to work effectively across the ideological spectrum. In 2017, he was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Perez has received Honorary Degrees from numerous institutions, including Brown University, Drexel School of Law, and University of Baltimore School of Law.

The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Perez and his wife, Ann Marie Staudenmaier (a public interest lawyer at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless) have three children and live in Takoma Park, Maryland. Perez is very active in his community, having served as a basketball and baseball coach and former Board President of Casa de Maryland, which is the largest non-profit serving the immigrant community in the mid-Atlantic region. Perez is also a former marathon runner, having completed the Boston marathon three times, and an avid bicyclist.

All American Speakers Bureau is a full-service talent booking agency providing information on booking Tom Perez for speaking engagements, personal appearances and corporate events. Contact an All American Speakers Bureau booking agent for more information on Tom Perez speaking fees, availability, speech topics and cost to hire for your next live or virtual event.

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