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Governor Makes OCHLA appointments/reappointments


Gov. Mike DeWine has appointed four Latino leaders from across the state to three-year terms on the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA). All four appointees already are serving on the commission and their new terms will run through October 7, 2024.


The list includes a Northwest Ohio commission member first appointed to serve earlier this year. Maria Sylvia Pedraza Martínez of Hamler received her initial governor’s appointment last March, giving the commission two Northwest Ohioans for the first time in recent memory.


At the time, Ms. Martínez told LaPrensa she was excited to focus her OCHLA efforts on areas of concern drawing on her rural roots, including education and migrant farmworkers. Ms. Martínez, 58, is the daughter of migrant workers who worked the fields of Paulding County before settling in Ottawa. She now works as a librarian in the Continental school district and as a monitor for the online learning of at-risk students to ensure they can graduate.


“Education was one of my biggest things that my parents always impressed on me,” said the Pandora-Gilboa High School graduate at the time of her initial appointment. “They said, ‘You have to graduate. You have to be better than we are. So that’s something I’ve always been passionate about.”


Rev. Juan M. Rivera of Youngstown took over as lead pastor the largest congregation of an eight-campus megachurch in early 2018. Rivera first attended Victory Christian Center while in high school and courting his future wife. He is a father of three children.


Rev. Rivera was born in Brooklyn, New York, but was raised on the south side of Youngstown. He has spent 13 years as a pastor and serves on the national board of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), a group of Hispanic evangelicals with 40,000 member churches.


The other two OCHLA appointees are from Hamilton County. V. Anthony Simms-Howell of Cincinnati was born in Panama, but he and his wife moved to the U.S. in 1968. Simms-Howell became the owner and vice president of a bilingual accounting and tax service.


He is a founding member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and LULAC Cincinnati. Simms-Howell was inducted a decade ago into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in recognition of his 50 years of service as a community leader. He is OCHLA’s most experienced commissioner.


Michael G. Florez, 64, of Cincinnati has served as an OCHLA commissioner for two decades. He has been an attorney for nearly 30 years, after graduating from law school at the Ohio State University. He has served the last 16 years as an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor.



The 11-member commission was established in 1977 by then-governor James A. Rhodes.  OCHLA advises state government on issues affecting Hispanic Ohioans, connects Latino communities, and builds the capacity of community organizations to better serve the growing Latino population of Ohio.



Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/16/21 19:09:25 -0800.




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