Nassau County Executive Laura Curran marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month by choosing a new executive director for the county’s Office of Hispanic Affairs. On Sept. 17, Amy Flores, of South Bellmore, was appointed to the position.
Flores, 35, a self-described “Latina millennial,” has lived in the area for seven years, but was raised in Hempstead, where the office is located. The department was previously called the Coordinating Agency for Spanish Americans, or CASA, and had offices in the basement of the building at 40 Main St. Under the Curran administration, the agency got a new name, location and executive director.
“The office has been in existence since the ’70s, but [it] was previously located in the basement, and CASA did not properly identify the actual function of the office,” Flores said. “We don’t only serve people from Spain; we help everyone.”
Relocating the agency from the shadowy corridors of the basement into a bright, inviting office space on the first floor has allowed Flores and her staff to better serve the public. “It creates more accessibility for the community,” she said, “and we’re a community-oriented office.”
The office serves as a bridge between the Hispanic community and county government. Flores is responsible for making recommendations to other agencies on best practices in implementing programs, delivery of services and advising the county executive on policy measures that impact Hispanic residents. The office also works with community organizations that serve Hispanic immigrants, with the goal of building strategic partnerships and a robust resource system.
The staff charged with distributing those referrals, coordinating programs and assisting Hispanic residents are, like Flores, all Latina women.
“This role is an opportunity to be an advocate for the Hispanic community and also collaborate with other organizations,” she said. “Our office cannot do it alone without connecting to other viable resources or the community in general, and listening to their voices so that we can better understand how we can serve them.”
The Office of Hispanic Affairs assists residents looking to obtain citizenship, learn English or get connected with employment and education opportunities. Flores and her staff operate on a case-by-case basis, sitting down with visitors individually.
“We try to do the best we can that the moment they walk out, they feel all of their questions have been answered,” she said.
Prior to joining the public sector, Flores served as vice president of People’s United Bank, and was responsible for its Affordable Lending division in the Northeast. She partnered with federal, state and local agencies to expand resources for sustainable homeownership opportunities, focusing on minority and low- to moderate-income communities.
“I’m thrilled to bring a talented and hard-working leader from the private sector into county government,” Curran said in a statement. “Amy is a business executive with a proven track record of successfully supporting challenging economic development and affordable housing missions, consistently delivering unsurpassed results.”
Working in government is different, Flores said, “but my passion and my drive to make a difference is still there.”
This week, the county kicked off its “Millennial Chat” series in conjunction with the Office of Hispanic Affairs. The Latino Millennial Chat focused on issues that Latinos face in Nassau County, including affordability, workforce development, housing and immigration.
“This series of conversations with millennials will cover important topics that are directly affecting this generation,” said Evlyn Tsimis, deputy county executive for economic development, “especially economic development, mobility and our efforts to keep our young people here in Nassau County.”
Flores encouraged millennial residents to attend future “chats” to have their voices heard. “Based upon those responses we can better determine how we can best meet the needs of the community,” she said.
As the daughter of El Salvadoran immigrants, Flores stressed the human impact her office has. “When [my parents] came to this country, they wanted to learn and aspire to be the best that they could be,” she said. “I see my parents through the people that we see on a daily basis, and I feel that regardless of where anyone comes from, their hopes and dreams can become attainable, it’s just a matter of giving them the tools and the resources to achieve them.”
Flores lives in South Bellmore with her husband and three children.
For more information about the office, visit Facebook at “Nassau County Office of Hispanic Affairs.” To receive updates, email ERuiz@nassaucountyny.gov.