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Latinx Leadership in Action: Irene Caudillo’s Role in Shaping a Brighter Future

In Wyandotte County, a fresh era of development within the Latinx community is on the horizon. Dedicated community leader, Irene Caudillo, has recently assumed the role of Chief of Staff to Mayor Tyrone A. Garner within the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. With a decades-long track record of affecting change among the Latinx population, Irene’s latest appointment as Chief of Staff represents a promising shift in the county’s approach to public service and community betterment.

Throughout her extensive career in the non-profit sector, Irene has shared her expertise with numerous organizations. She began her journey as the first Minority Health Outreach Coordinator at the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department and later held the position of Director of Clinic Operations at Swope Health Services. In addition, Irene devoted a decade of leadership to El Centro, serving as the president and chief executive officer.

In the 1990s, Irene was instrumental in founding an early childhood education program at El Centro, committed to celebrating Latin culture and language. Today, El Centro maintains a dual-language preschool fostering authenticity and inclusivity. “What I love about my work with El Centro is the significant impact we had in being unapologetic about utilizing Spanish as a way to not only access our community but to get others to understand that the language is a part of the community,” Irene said.

Through her work, Irene advocates for recognizing the richness of the Latinx culture that she says has helped shape not only the region but the entire country. “By embracing the language and culture, we can educate, inform, and expand the role of our community who are already making valuable contributions in work and play, in our military, healthcare systems, and classrooms,” she said.

Moreover, Irene’s dedication goes beyond education and culture. She recognized the healthcare disparities within the Latinx population and embarked on a mission to address them. Under her leadership, El Centro expanded programs focused on health navigation and education. This proactive approach proved invaluable when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, allowing the organization to work closely with health departments, clinics, and hospitals to ensure the Latinx community received the care it needed.

Now, in her new role as Chief of Staff to Mayor Tyrone A. Garner, Irene’s aspirations include ensuring that community solutions and opportunities are available to all, regardless of their background. Irene said she is looking forward to partnering with Mayor Garner who shares her vision of focusing on the most disinvested areas of the city. “Many of the diverse community lives east of I-635,” Irene said. “But it has also been the most disinvested part of our community. A lot of strength in the past government has been very much about building out West. I said yes to a mayor who really wants to strengthen the focus on the most disinvested areas.”

El Centro was a proud recipient of the 15 and Mahomies Foundation, receiving financial support in 2021 and 2022.

As a brighter future dawns for the Latinx community, Irene envisions her work not merely in the present but also through the lens of future generations. Throughout her career, Irene has mentored many young people who are now building community programs and non-profit organizations. She said she has always felt a duty to ensure that she was “standing with folks to move things forward within the Latin community.”

For young people seeking to make a difference in the Latinx community, Irene offers sage advice. She emphasizes the importance of authenticity, recognizing that one’s lived experience is a valuable expertise that should be brought to the table. She also encourages seizing any opportunity to contribute. “If there is not a table you’re invited to, build one,” she said. “And bring other young Latinas and Latinos.” 

Unquestionably, Irene’s efforts have charted the course for a Latinx community in Kansas City and beyond that is more inclusive and thriving. In her own words, she underscores the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month, emphasizing the importance of Latinx representation and mutual respect. “When we think about Hispanic Heritage Month, it is meant to make sure that we are educating those who don’t know who we are, but we’re also valuing who we are in a way that advocates for all.” 

Featured in the September 30, 2023 issue of The Independent.
By Monica V. Reynolds


Monica V. Reynolds is an award-winning former reporter who honed her skills at a daily newspaper in Northeast Louisiana. After spending more than a decade in Austin, Texas, she recently moved to Our Town. Monica’s passion for journalism extends to documentary short filmmaking and photography. She is the founder of Vox Pop Marketing, an online marketing and web design firm that helps small businesses develop an authentic, magnetic message and online presence.


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