2014: A Good Year for Haitian-Americans in Politics

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The year 2014 provided plenty of evidence of the growing political clout of the Haitian-American community.

Among the many firsts: a Haitian-American was elected to the U.S. Congress, representing a conservative Western state. Ludmyia Bourdeau “Mia” Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was elected to Congress in the Republican tide of November 2014. She will represent Utah’s 4th congressional district. Love, 39, will be the first Haitian-American and the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. She was previously mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah.

Haitian-Americans made gains on the other side of the country as well. In New York, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, chairperson and co-founder of the Haitian Roundtable, became the Big Apple’s first Haitian-American commissioner. In January, she was appointed by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. She was Deputy Borough President to Borough President Scott Stringer in the previous city administration.

Another significant city appointment went to Jacques Jiha, who was named New York City Commissioner of Finance by the new mayor in April. Jiha, 56, will be responsible for an agency that collects $30 billion a year in taxes and advises the city on its $130 billion pension system. He is the former executive vice president and COO of Earl G. Graves Enterprises, publishers of Black Enterprise.

Mitchell Silver was appointed New York City Parks Commissioner in April. A renowned voice for urban planning, Mitchell previously served as chief planning and development officer for Raleigh, NC and is a past president of the American Planning Association. Silver, a native of Brooklyn, is the son of a German-Jewish father and a Haitian mother.

Mayor De Blasio reached into the Haitian-American talent pool once again in 2014 to name Gary Rodney president of New York City’s Housing Development Corporation – the city’s housing finance arm. Rodney, the son of Haitian immigrants, is responsible for preservation and creation of affordable apartments. Before joining the city administration, he was executive vice president for development at Omni New York LLC, which finances community-based affordable housing projects.

Haitian New Yorkers scored wins at the state level as well. Rodneyse Bichotte was the first Haitian-American woman elected to the New York State Assembly from New York City’s 42nd assembly district. She will represent a diverse area of Brooklyn that includes a large Haitian immigrant community. Kimberly Jean-Pierre won a seat in the state assembly from the 11th district in suburban Nassau County.

In the nation’s capital, Karl Racine became the first elected district attorney for Washington, DC. A former White House lawyer and public defender, Racine, who was born in Haiti in 1963, won a post that had formerly been appointed by the city’s mayor but became an elected position for the first time. He is a former managing partner at the law firm, Venable LLP.

Haitians made important gains in Florida, another Haitian-American stronghold. In the Miami area, Jean Monestime became the first Haitian-American chairman of the powerful Miami-Dade County Commission by a unanimous vote of the body’s members. In North Miami Dr. Smith Joseph, 53, won a runoff to become mayor of a city with a large Haitian population. Joseph, an internist, will complete the term of suspended Mayor Lucie Tondreau, who was removed from office after charges of fraud. And in Florida’s Orange County, which includes Orlando, Victoria Siplin won a seat on the Orange County Commission. Born in Nassau, Bahamas of Haitian parents, she came to Florida as an orphan and is married to a state senator.

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