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RI POLITICS

Governor McKee names Tomás Ávila to R.I. diversity position

The appointment comes as R.I. Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is calling for the state to meet contract requirements for minority businesses

Tomás Ávila, the new associate director of the Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity.

PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee on Tuesday announced that Latino activist Tomás Ávila is the new associate director of the state Office of Diversity, Equity, and Opportunity.

Ávila, executive director of the Milenio Latino Institute Inc. for 12 years, takes over as the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus is calling for the state do a better job of meeting a requirement that 10 percent of the dollar value of state contracts go to Minority Business Enterprises.

“I know Tomás over the years, and I’m really pleased that he has accepted this position,” McKee said at his weekly news conference. “Tomás will be focused on the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program, developing recruitment and retention activities to promote diversity, and ensuring compliance with the federal and state laws and regulations.”

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Dorinda L. Keene had been serving as the office’s acting associate director, and she will now return to her position as assistant administrator of Minority Business Enterprise compliance, a spokesman said. Cheryl Burrell had been in that position until May 2020. The annual salary is $115,909.

Ávila, who is 67 and lives in Lincoln, has served as executive director of Progreso Latino, deputy director of the Center for Hispanic Policy and Advocacy, and president of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee.

He was the first Latino chairman of the Providence Board of Canvassers after being appointed by former Mayor Angel Tavares. He served on the Providence Equity Task force after being appointed by former mayor David N. Cicilline. And he is the editor of books documenting the rise of Latino political power in Rhode Island.

Created in 2014, the Office of Diversity Equity and Opportunity is responsible for creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive state government culture by advancing equitable and fair opportunities for all Rhode Islanders in state employment and procurement.

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James E. Thorsen, director of the Department of Administration, said Ávila “is passionate about the inclusion of minority communities in all parts of life here in Rhode Island.”

“The state is committed to ensuring equity, including bolstering the participation of minority business enterprises in procurement,” Thorsen said, “and Tomás will play a critical role in our success.”

In a statement, Ávila said, “Governor McKee and his administration have stressed the importance of equity, and I look forward to all that we will achieve together.”

Ávila told the Globe that meeting the Minority Business Enterprise requirements will be his priority.

“As a matter of fact, it’s a mandate from the governor to look into it and start doing something about it,” he said. “The governor is being proactive in making the necessary changes to enforce it and to encourage the different department heads to comply with the law.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.