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Governor Cuomo Announces Appointment of Chief Diversity Officer

Press Release

Location: Albany, NY

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that Mecca E. Santana has joined the administration as New York State's Chief Diversity Officer.

"I am pleased to welcome Mecca Santana to my administration to serve as New York State's Chief Diversity Officer," Governor Cuomo said. "Ms. Santana will bring more than a decade of public sector experience to the position, and she has a proven track record in working on equal opportunity, civil rights and diversity issues in government. Ms. Santana will be a great asset in our efforts to ensure state government is inclusive and fairly represents the great diversity of New York State, including through building opportunities for MWBE participation and economic growth."

Ms. Santana previously served as the Executive Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity Management at the New York City Department of Education (DOE), where she was responsible for investigating civil rights violations and ensuring department-wide compliance with EEO laws and diversity policies in the largest school district in the country. In her position, she established the DOE's Diversity and Inclusion program and created the DOE's first Minority and Women Owned Business Diversity Council.

Prior to joining the DOE in 2008, Ms. Santana was Senior Assistant Counsel for the New York State Commission of Investigation, where she investigated municipal corruption and assorted criminal matters. Ms. Santana began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Appointed by District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau in 2000, Ms. Santana served as a prosecutor in the Trial Division, the Sex Crimes Unit, the Domestic Violence Unit, and the Welfare Fraud Unit. Ms. Santana received her B.A. from SUNY Albany in 1997, and her J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law in 2000. She also earned an Equal Employment Opportunity Studies Certification and a Diversity Management Certification in 2009 from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The Chief Diversity Officer is tasked with reforming and strengthening the State's programs and efforts to encourage the growth of minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs). The Chief Diversity Officer performs many important tasks including advising the Governor on policies relating to workforce diversity and minority and women's business enterprises; monitoring diversity compliance in the different agencies and authorities; serving on the state procurement council; and serving as the Governor's liaison to organizations representing MWBEs, organizations related to diversity in the state workforce and state contracting, and the small business advisory council. The Chief Diversity Officer is one of three Executive Chamber positions, along with the positions of Secretary and Counsel to the Governor, required by New York State statute.

"I am truly honored to accept this appointment as the State's Chief Diversity Officer," said Ms. Santana. "As someone who has dedicated my life to the pursuit of justice and equality in a variety of forums, I look forward to promoting the important issues of Diversity, Inclusion, and Minority & Women Owned Business participation throughout the State. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for providing me with this opportunity to continue doing the work about which I am so passionate."

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott of the New York City Department of Education said, "Over the last five and a half years, Mecca Santana has served the New York City Department of Education with distinction, ensuring that discrimination complaints were appropriately addressed and trainings and community outreach were conducted while working collaboratively across divisions with senior leadership. Through her work on diversity management, Mecca spearheaded several agency-wide recruitment and retention initiatives designed to promote diversity and inclusion, while also leading new initiatives to increase Minority & Women Owned Business (MWBE) procurement opportunities. While we will miss her tremendous contributions here at the New York City Department of Education, I am confident that Ms. Santana will continue to champion these important issues as part of Governor Cuomo's administration. I look forward to seeing what she will do at the state level."

Diane Crothers, former Chief Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Officer for the City of New York, said, "Mecca Sykes-Santana is a highly respected leader of diversity efforts in the public sector. As Director of Equal Opportunity for the New York City Department of Education, the nation's largest school system, she has made strong contributions to creating an equal opportunity environment in both education and employment. She played an integral role in the City of New York's Equal Employment Opportunity Program by providing other EEO Officers with training, mentorship and information on best practices. As the Chief Diversity Officer for the City of New York, I relied on her astute grasp of the machinery of government to help fashion implementation strategies that worked."

"Governor Cuomo has exceeded our expectations by appointing Mecca Santana to the post of New York State's Chief Diversity Officer. Her ability to get things done by bringing people together is unparalleled. She is an overachiever who has dazzled skeptics with her ability and tenacity. I wholeheartedly applaud this landmark appointment," said Reverend Jacques Andre DeGraff, First Vice President of One Hundred Black Men, and a former New York City MWBE Advocate of the Year. He has been honored by the State of Israel with its MLK Award and is a long time social justice activist.

Sandra Wilkin, President of Bradford Construction Corp., said, "I am thrilled that Mecca Santana has been appointed to the position of Chief Diversity Officer for New York State. Mecca is trustworthy, dedicated, and results driven. As a woman business owner I have great admiration for her accomplishments and dynamic personality. Mecca's experience in diversity management will continue to strengthen New York State's vision for commitment to inclusiveness in policies and practices, especially for Minority and Women Business Enterprises (MWBEs)."

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