While commending Governor Maura Healey’s commitment to equity and hiring of diverse senior officials, leaders in the Latino community are also calling attention to the fact that the administration has not yet named a Latino to a Cabinet-level position.
“Historically, Latinos haven’t been as equally represented in the inner circle of higher leadership, in any sector not just government,” said Phyllis Barajas, the founder and CEO of Latino mentoring and leadership program Conexión. “It takes intentionality to do so, and it takes time.”
As Healey considers her final Cabinet picks and staffs up her nascent administration, some Latino advocates are pushing the new governor to ensure her administration reflects the population it serves.
Leaders including Barajas have crowd-sourced and created a list of more than 140 qualified candidates for roles in the administration using an online form. A statewide coalition has been communicating directly with Healey’s and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll’s staff since December. And last Monday, the state’s Latino Advisory Commission penned a letter urging the administration to consider qualified and diverse candidates for top jobs.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Healey pointed out five members of the administration’s senior staff who identify as Latino, and said the administration is also creating a position in the governor’s press office that will focus on multicultural media.
When asked whether Terrence Reidy, secretary of public safety and security, identifies as Latino, a spokeswoman said he “identifies as a Mexican-Irish American,” and noted that while his father’s side is Irish, his mother’s family has Mexican heritage.
When asked whether the administration considers Reidy’s reappointment to the role a Latino hire, Karissa Hand, Healey’s spokesperson, referred a reporter to Reidy’s office.
“The Healey-Driscoll administration is committed to building a diverse and inclusive team that reflects the communities we serve,” Hand said. “We look forward to continued collaboration with Latino leaders.”
The Latino population in Massachusetts continues to grow, comprising 12.6 percent of the state’s total population, up from 9.6 percent a decade earlier. As such, Latinos make up the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the state; there are nearly twice as many Latinos in Massachusetts as residents who identify as Black only (as opposed to those who identify as both Black and Latino). By contrast, the proportion of residents identifying only as white declined from 76.1 percent to 67.6 percent of the state over the same period.
Eneida Román, the CEO and co-founder of Boston-based Amplify Latinx, said the push for representation reflects the community’s willingness to partner to the Healey administration in achieving Latino representation at the highest levels.
“We know in the campaign, Governor Healey always said that she wanted her administration to reflect the Commonwealth. That is our sense of urgency,” Román said. “At the end of the day, there is just a sense of urgency that we collaborate, that we work in partnership, and that the contributions of Latinos are seen.”
Román acknowledged that Healey has not finished building out her Cabinet and that the new governor’s hires show a commitment to diversity. Observers have praised Healey’s attention to diversity in her hiring thus far, saying it stands in contrast to her predecessor, former governor Charlie Baker. Baker’s Cabinet was majority white and male, while five of the nine permanent hires Healey has made are women, and three are people of color
There are a few slots on her Cabinet left to fill. Healey still needs to name a permanent secretary of Health and Human Services, a chief of Housing, and a secretary of Veterans’ Services, a new position created by the Legislature in its last session.
In her inaugural address, Healey said “we must center equity in all that we do,” and reiterated a campaign promise to direct every state agency to conduct “a full equity audit.”
In a tweet Thursday, she said she was directing her team to prepare an executive order to create a working group to “help us shine a light on systemic barriers that exist in state government.”
“Then, we’re going to break them down,” she said.
To be sure, Baker made his own efforts toward diversity. Latino leaders praised his appointment of Rosalin Acosta, a member of the statewide Unidos in Power coalition, as Labor and Workforce Development secretary. They also point out Baker’s 2020 action that created a demographics dashboard for state agency workforce information, established a working group to increase the number of diverse applicants for state jobs, and penned an executive order that directed executive branch agencies to develop and implement affirmative action and diversity plans to “identify and eliminate barriers in the workplace.”
Baker created the Latino Advisory Commission in 2017 and tasked members with advising the governor on issues relating to the “economic prosperity and well-being” of the Commonwealth’s Latino community.
In the Latino Advisory Commission’s letter to Healey, which was obtained by the Globe through a public records request, the group offered help in recommending candidates who are “capable and eager” to serve in the administration.
“We are focused on making sure that the Latino community continues to be represented at the cabinet level of the Commonwealth’s government and acknowledge your ongoing efforts on this front,” wrote the commission’s acting chair, Carolina Avellaneda. “All of us in the Commission are enthusiastic supporters of a government that comes together to lift people up, acts with empathy and equity, and is not afraid to lead.”
Arturo Natella, founder of consulting firm Amaru, said the efforts of past administrations are important and the call for the state to employ more Latinos is meant to build on those. He helped create an online form to gauge interest from the Latino community in roles in the Healey administration.
“We recognize the shortcomings of past efforts to funnel talent into a new administration,” said Natella, who specializes in diverse recruitment practices. “This time around, we are intentional about improving on past efforts and creating an equitable space for everyone in our community to participate.”
The form, which went live in late November, asks interested parties to submit résumés, their work experience, their interest in a range of sectors from arts to criminal justice to housing, and their technical skills.
More than 140 people submitted information, which was passed on to the Healey administration in mid-December, Natella said.
Senator Adam Gomez, a Springfield Democrat and member of the Black and Latino Caucus, said he believes Healey understands the importance of representation at all levels of government. His caucus has grown by a handful of seats since the last election cycle, he pointed out, and he hopes that the growth on Beacon Hill is reflected in the executive branch as well.
“[Healey’s] always been fair,” he said. “I want to see what she’s going to do and how she is going to have us represented. Hopefully it’s a Cabinet position.”
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross.