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MiLEAP Announces New Leadership Team Members

Today, Acting Director Michelle Richard announced three new members of the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) leadership team. Emily Laidlaw has been selected to serve as the deputy director of the Office of Early Education, Rawlan Lillard II has been chosen as the deputy director of the Office of Education Partnerships, and Jessica Weare has been selected as the chief operating officer and chief legal counsel.

“MiLEAP can deliver for Michigan kids, families, and students because we have an incredible team of public servants. I’m delighted to add to our ranks today by welcoming three new members of our leadership team: Emily, Rawlan, and Jessica,” said Acting Director Richard. “Their expertise, experience, and commitment will help us achieve PreK for All, partner with families to support early literacy, expand access to out-of-school time learning, make college more affordable, and so much more.” 

Emily Laidlaw, Deputy Director of Early Education

Emily Laidlaw serves as the deputy director of the Office of Early Education. She previously served as the Office of Early Education team leader and director of the Child Care Licensing Bureau. She joined the team after working as the director of policy and education advisor for the Executive Office of the Governor. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Emily did advocacy work in representing early education and K-12 education groups and organizations.  She also served as the director of government affairs for the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Districts and worked in the Michigan House of Representatives.

“Now more than ever, we know how important early learning opportunities are for our youngest learners,” said Deputy Director Emily Laidlaw. “I’m proud to lead MiLEAP’s efforts to achieve PreK for All while expanding affordable and accessible child care that meets the needs of kids and families across Michigan.”

Rawlan Lillard II, Deputy Director of Education Partnerships

Rawlan Lillard II serves as the deputy director of the Office of Education Partnerships. Rawlan is joining state government with 30 years of experience in cooperative education and community education in the greater Flint community. Rawlan has worked in youth development from a variety of positions including working in philanthropy, workforce development, universities, and youth services.

“I am excited to join and support the continuing work of MiLEAP,” said Deputy Director Rawlan Lillard. “As a newly appointed representative, I look forward to serving our Michiganders!”

Jessica Weare, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Legal Counsel

Jessica Weare serves as the chief operating officer and chief legal counsel of MiLEAP. Most recently, Weare was the Acting Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery, which contributed more than $1.3 billion to the School Aid Fund for Fiscal Year 2023. Weare also previously served as deputy legal counsel to Governor Whitmer, advising on a broad range of legal issues. Prior to returning to her home state of Michigan, Jessica was associate general counsel for Global Trade Compliance at Facebook (now Meta). Earlier in her legal career, Jessica spent nearly a decade as an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and was a judicial clerk to Justice Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court. Jessica received her BA from Alma College, where she was a Truman and Fulbright Scholar, and her JD from Yale Law School.

“I am thrilled to be part of MiLEAP’s efforts to provide lifelong learning support and ensure that all Michiganders are prepared to succeed in the workforce,” said Jessica Weare, chief operating officer and chief legal counsel. “As a mother, I know firsthand how critical Governor Whitmer’s preschool to postsecondary approach is to supporting students and their families, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get to work making Michigan an even better place to raise a family.”

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