ELLY GRIMM

    • Leader & Times

 

The Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission (KHLAAC) officially has a new person in charge with new executive director Irma Faudoa.

Gov. Laura Kelly made the announcement late last month.

“I have no doubt Irma Faudoa is the right person to lead KHLAAC toward continued success,” Gov. Laura Kelly noted in a release from the State of Kansas. “She has a proven track record in community engagement and legislative affairs, which will benefit Kansas’ Hispanic and Latino communities.”

The KHLAAC serves as a liaison between the Kansas Hispanic and Latino community and the Office of the Governor, with the goal of serving Hispanic residents in areas of culture, education, employment, health, housing, welfare, and recreation, and Faudoa said she has been working toward such a position for a long time.

“I was about 7 years old when I realized this was what I wanted to do. It was around the time of the 2008 election, and I was paying attention to everything going on with that,” Faudoa said. “As I was watching everything unfold with that election cycle, I thought to myself 'If THEY can do this, why can't I?' Also, I've known from a very young age I wanted to serve, and I thought this would be the best way to do that. I want to be part of the decisions that impact policies and legislation that affect the lives of people throughout the state of Kansas. I began working with the office of the governor around the middle of May, and I have my bachelor's degree in political science and double-minored in business and U.S. intelligence and national security studies. I also have a master's degree in public administration with an emphasis in city/county management and non-profit management, and both of my degrees are from the University of Kansas. I've had the opportunity to work in all three levels of government – I worked as a legislative intern for a U.S. representative, and I also worked on behalf of the State of California on various campaigns and different propositions. I also worked for the City of Topeka as the housing navigator and the co-lead for the homeless initiative.”

Faudoa will be replacing Carla Rivas-D'Amico in the position, and she said after hearing about the position, she felt it aligned with her career goals.

“I'd heard the position was open, and I had some people tell me they thought it might be a good fit for me, so I read the job posting and figured I would be able to serve well in this capacity and continue my career in public service, especially in regards to advocating for the Hispanic population of Kansas,” Faudoa said. “The reason I decided to officially put my name forward is because I want the state's Hispanic population to feel like they're part of the decision-making process at this level of government.”

Faudoa’s time in the position has only recently begun, and she said she got right to work.

“Right now, we're focusing on our upcoming Latin Leadership Summit and Gala. The Summit will feature insightful panels on a variety of topics such as leadership in local government, characteristics of a welcoming community, inclusive economic growth, and Hispanic voting,” Faudoa said. “Our panelists include leaders in state and local government, as well as leaders in energy, and non-profit organizations from all over the state. We will hear from multiple guests including Gov. Laura Kelly, current Topeka Mayor Michael Padilla, KHLAAC Chairwoman Monica Vargas-Huertas, and our special keynote speaker former Topeka Mayor Michelle De la Isla. We will also be hosting a gala to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and that promises to be an unforgettable evening featuring a three-course meal, live music by KC Latin Jazz Orchestra, performances by folklorico group Mi Sol, and a Mariachi serenade. The Summit and Gala are scheduled for June 29 at the Hotel Topeka at City Center in Topeka. If you are traveling from out of town, we have arranged a special hotel rate of $89.99 per night + tax for two nights (6/28 and 6/29). If you would like to book a room at this rate, please call at (800) 579-7937 and use the code KHLAAC 2024.”

Faudoa said she has several long-term goals, especially with outreach.

“A priority for me right now is to get a good understanding of the KHLAAC and its priorities and then once I get a little more settled in, it'll be important for me to reach out to the organizations we work with to help advocate for the state's Hispanic population,” Faudoa said. “I also think it's important for us to be flexible with those goals because what's a priority this year might not be what we focus on next year. If we want to be effective, I have to take into consideration the different ideas and priorities of those I'm working with and those who will be affected by the policies we enact. I want to get to know and talk to the organizations doing the more on-the-ground work throughout the state and figuring out their needs and what barriers they might be facing. They're the ones who will be giving me a true account and telling me 'X is what's going on, what do we do?' and then I can point them toward the resources they'll need. At the end of the day, I'm headquartered in Topeka, but that doesn't mean I don't care about the different parts of the state – I care about the entire state, and if there's something you need help with, I want to ensure you have a voice and know what to do and where to go. We would also be more than willing to host in-person town hall meetings in that area, and we can also host webinars and other similar events, it just depends on the circumstances and what everyone would be comfortable with. Either way, we want to talk to as many people as possible and get to know the different communities throughout the state and have those voices heard.”

Overall, Faudoa said, she is excited for her new role.

“What I'm most excited about is how Gov. Kelly has entrusted me to be a voice and be a leader for those who might feel like they don't have a voice,” Faudoa said. “Ultimately, we have to show and we have to have people understand how even though they're busy working and raising their families and everything else, they still have a voice and are an important part of their community, and they 100 percent matter. We are working on our upcoming Summit and Gala, and we're really excited with the various guests we'll have speaking those days. I would like to encourage any who needs to, to get in touch with me because their voice is important, and we want to be sure their voice is included in the decision-making processes. We do have a social media presence, so if anyone wants to follow us, they can do so on Facebook: Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs https://www.facebook.com/KSHispanicAndLatinoAffairs/; Instagram: @khlaac.ks https://www.instagram.com/khlaac.ks/; and LinkedIn: Kansas Hispanic & Latino American Affairs Commission – KHLAAC https://www.linkedin.com/company/khlaac.”

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