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Miriam Hernandez Ida L. Castro
April 26, 2004
Editorial, Winston-Salem Journal
For years, Miriam Hernandez has been a kind and knowing guide for Hispanic immigrants to this area, patiently explaining United States culture to them and helping them with their fledgling English.
She's also been a guide for Anglos, patiently explaining Hispanic culture to them and helping them with their fledgling Spanish. For many Anglos, she's been the face of the growing Hispanic community, one of the few Hispanics to break into mainstream leadership circles.
She's done most of this bridge-building as the founder and director of the Hispanic/International Action Association, and her resignation at month's end should serve as a barometer of sorts for the progress of Hispanic leadership in Forsyth County.
Hernandez, who came here from Puerto Rico several years ago, gave up a lucrative career in business to start what would become the action association. It provides information to Hispanic communities through a referral service and educational campaigns, and works with social service agencies to tackle the needs of Hispanics. The needs are growing with the population - at least 35,000 in Forsyth County - and the outreach can be exhausting. Hernandez says she is resigning because of health problems brought on in part by the pace of her work.
As Hernandez says, new Hispanic leaders are needed. But the barriers to their cultivation are significant. There's the obvious language barrier, although Hispanics are learning English far faster than many might think. But for their first few years here, all many Hispanics can do is earn a living and learn the United States culture.
And there's a certain amount of turf protection at work as well, with some local leaders unwilling to share power with the newcomers. Yet Hispanic leaders are best equipped to confront issues including health care and education in Hispanic communities, and established leaders should welcome their input. As it is now, many Hispanic leaders tend to work within their own communities, and that's less than the melting-pot ideal.
That pattern is changing, albeit slowly. Increasingly, Hispanics are being appointed to the boards of nonprofit agencies and are finding their way into leadership in churches. It may be a few years before the first Hispanic is elected to the city council or the county commissioners, although that day is coming. Hispanic leaders are needed there and throughout other traditional leadership circles in this county.
"There could be at least dozens of other individuals who will be the face of our Hispanic community," Hernandez said.
Hernandez will stay on part-time until her replacement is found, but her departure will leave a gap. New Hispanics leaders and established leaders should work together to fill it and meet the growing needs of their shared communities.
State Personnel Commissioner Resigns To Take Job At CUNY
KATHY BARRETT CARTER
August 7, 2004
Personnel Commissioner Ida L. Castro, the highest-ranking Hispanic in Gov. James E. McGreevey's administration, is leaving to take a teaching job at the City University of New York Law School.
"I was offered this wonderful opportunity to go back to my two favorite loves - my profession as a lawyer and teaching," Castro said.
Castro, 52, formally told the governor's office on Monday she is resigning, but administration officials did not issue a news release announcing her departure until 5 p.m. yesterday after receiving phone calls from reporters.
She will officially leave Trenton at the end of the month and begins work Sept. 1 at CUNY Law School.
"It is with great sadness that I accept Commissioner Castro's resignation," said McGreevey. "Through her leadership, our state has a work force that is today far better aligned with the needs of our citizens than it was two years ago."
Micah Rasmussen, spokesman for the governor, said McGreevey plans to fill the position in the next three weeks.
McGreevey said Castro also had been "invaluable" in his administration's outreach to the Hispanic community. Castro, who was born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico, was the first Latina to serve as personnel commissioner and the only Hispanic in the governor's Cabinet.
She is the fourth Cabinet-level officer to leave the McGreevey administration, and her resignation comes less than a month after the Rev. William Watley, the commerce secretary, stepped down amid controversy.
Others to leave include Attorney General David Samson, Human Service Commissioner Gwendolyn Long Harris and Labor Commissioner Albert Kroll. In addition to those who have left, Secretary of State Regena Thomas is on leave and is not expected to return.
Before joining the McGreevey administration, Castro worked in the Clinton administration as chairwoman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2001, she served as director of the Democratic National Committee's Women Vote Center.
On Jan. 15, 2002, the day McGreevey was sworn in as governor, he appointed Castro acting commissioner. The Senate confirmed her appointment to the $137,000 post on Jan. 24, 2002.
In taking the job at CUNY, Castro returns to a familiar place. From 1988 to 1990, she was director of labor relations at CUNY and senior counsel for legal affairs.