NEW TOWN — Spencer Chiimbwe, a member of the Rockland County Human Rights Commission since February, has been named its chief.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day made the announcement Tuesday in front of a dozen community leaders.
Chiimbwe is a Stony Point resident with a strong human rights background.
The position has been open since last spring. In April, the county confirmed the human rights commissioner had left but declined to provide further information.
“We were looking forward to filling that out,” Day said. But the county, he said, did not rush through the process. A county stakeholder panel weighed many job seekers, Day said. The panel unanimously backed Chiimbwe.
The Rockland Legislature must confirm the nomination. While the Legislative Assembly had a meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening, the post of human rights commissioner was not on the agenda. The next meeting will be on November 15.
The position pays $105,000 per year.
Meet Spencer Chiimbwe
Born and raised in Zambia, Chiimbwe has a long career in human rights work here and abroad.
Recently, he worked for the county as a grant specialist to determine the disbursement of US bailout, federal COVID funding.
“He has a fundamental understanding of government,” Day said.
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Chiimbwe has worked for the New York Senate on public policy, volunteered for U.S. Representative Nita Lowey, and worked for the United African Congress. He was also vice-president of a humanitarian philanthropy.
“That’s not even all the jobs on his resume,” Day said.
Chiimbwe said he grew up in a small mining town. His mother, he says, taught him respect. Her father, who worked in the mining industry, never missed a day of work. He thanked his wife, Esther, and three children for their support.
As for the long-term occupation, Chiimbwe said all of his roles add up to one job: “Peopletician.”
What is the Human Rights Commission?
The County Human Rights Commission, a council of community leaders and a county-employed commissioner and staff, investigates discriminatory practices related to housing, employment, race, creed, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender/sex and/or disability.
The commission focuses on human rights violations, acute and chronic, “especially those that put life in imminent danger”, according to its mission statement.
The commission also promotes understanding between various groups and works to mediate or reduce tension or conflict in the community.
Chiimbwe said his “roadmap” for the job included four themes:
- collective ownership of human rights work in Rockland;
- a proactive and consultative approach to getting things done;
- mobilize resources to turn ideas into action;
- find unity in diversity.
The diversity of Rockland
Rockland is one of the most diverse counties in the state. With more than 338,000 inhabitants, the The US census shows that in the decade between 2010 and 2020, the county’s white population fell by almost 6% and the black population by about 4%.
The county’s Hispanic population has grown by approximately 36% over this decade, with over 19% of the county’s population in 2020 identifying as Hispanic.
Meanwhile, county growth has been seen in areas with large Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish populations, including Monsey, which saw a 46% increase in population between 2010 and 2020, and New Square with an increase in population. by about 39%.
Chiimbwe recognized the county’s diversity, which he called the county’s strength. “Most people want to do something about discrimination.”
Raising human rights, he said, must be done together as a community.
Chiimbwe said he can and will work with everyone, but he cannot do it alone. “I propose that each of us locate our voice in this endeavor.”
Nancy Cutler writes at People & Policy. Follow her on Twitter at @nancyrockland.
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