“Depending upon their schedules and availability, I also hope to meet with Marisol Ibarra and Margarita De León, Adam Martínez, and Judge Keila Cosme [in Toledo],” said Villa, who met with Cleveland-area Latino leaders last week—Carlos Chinchilla (Director of the Hispanic Alliance) and with Victor Ruiz (Director of Esperanza, Inc.).
Later this week, Villa plans on meeting Joel Arredondo, Dan Ramos, and others in Lorain. In Columbus, he has had contact with the Office of Ohio Latino Affairs and he intends on meeting with Rubén Castilla Herrera, and others.
Villa’s appointment was hailed by Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern who said “Camilo brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this position and we are proud to have him join our team.
“Between 2004 and 2008, Latino voting grew by 30 percent nationally, with more than two million voters added to the U.S.-American electorate. Support of the Latino community will be crucial in this year’s election, and through the Ohio Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus, we will have the outreach and resources necessary to spread our message to Latino voters across Ohio.”
Villa said that the Latino community has been enthusiastic about his new role. “Everyone I’ve talked to is pretty excited that the Democratic Party has made Latino issues a priority this year [such as immigration reform, education, and unemployed]. I’ve had a really good response from people who perceive it as a new initiative.
“I am thrilled about this opportunity to work with the Ohio Democratic Party and lead its outreach to Latino Ohioans around the state. I’m very excited about what my position means both for the Party and for Latino communities.
“Latinos are greatly affected by so many issues that Democrats are addressing today; it is crucial that they be engaged in the political process. Together, we can work to elect progressive leaders that will represent Latino interests in Ohio,” added Villa.
Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Villa and his family moved to Ohio in 1994 when he was five years old. His father is Colombian and his mother is Canadian. He grew up in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and attended Lakeland Community College as a PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) student. He graduated from Baldwin Wallace College in Berea with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies.
Politically active at an early age, Villa was an officer in the College Democrats chapters at Lakeland and Baldwin Wallace. He was a volunteer in the 14th Congressional District O’Neill for Congress campaign as well as in President Barack Obama’s campaign.
After graduation, Villa worked with the non-profit HOLA (Hispanas Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula), an immigrant and Latino rights organization active in the nationwide Reform Immigration for America campaign to reform U.S.-America’s immigration system. He believes that experience has made him well-suited for politically engaging the Latino population of Ohio.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work on very different levels with people in the community. I’ve had meetings with documented workers, undocumented workers, representatives from Congressional offices, the clergy, and members of Cleveland city council. I’ve had the opportunity to interact on different levels in meeting with Latino leaders to coordinate efforts in this very important issue,” said Villa.
“I have a perfect skill set for my new job. I can work well with average members of the community and interact with leaders of the community and in government. The skills that I bring to the table are people skills, the ability to engage many different types of people,” he added.
“My job is to help engage Latinos on all levels including voting and volunteering. I want to see them engaged with the Party and the electoral process,” said Villa.
Asked how he feels he can best assist Latinos, Villa said he believes his position can assist them in becoming engaged in the political process. “My job is to help engage Latinos on all levels including voting and volunteering. I want to see them engaged with the Party and the electoral process.
“We are a community, and the more we are plugged into the political process and engagement, the stronger voice we will have in government and in the Party. Our voice will come out of decisions we make. In the past, we have been much disengaged from politics in the state, and we will have to do a lot of work to change this.
“That is why I want to assist the Latino community to help foster a dialogue between our new community which is growing extremely fast with so many new citizens and new residents and the Party.
“There has been a lack of knowledge within the community about the Party and the government. I have wanted to foster this dialogue with the Party for a long time. This is a new community and I want to see it become as engaged as other more established communities,” said Villa.
“I want to help Latinos realize why their best interests are in electing Democrats. I want to help identify the issues that concern the community and make certain that the candidates are aware of these concerns,” he added.
But what will Villa do if he believes the Party is not following his advice?
“The Party is not seeking my advice,” says Villa. “I will be helping the Party understand those issues that are important to help the Party engage members of the Latino community.
“The Democrats have already been addressing these issues. For instance, Gov. Ted Strickland has been overhauling and improving education, an issue which affects Latinos more than anyone else – as you can see by the 50 percent Latino dropout rate in Cleveland. These are urban initiatives by the government that affect Latinos in terms of grades and graduation rates.
“In the past, there has been a lack of knowledge of the Latino community on the part of some elements of the Party and among political people. But now you can see a greater sensitivity to Latino issues by the recent meetings of the governor and Yvette McKee Brown, the candidate for Lt. Governor, during their visits to Toledo and Cincinnati. It is important to realize that the Party is trying to change and that it hasn’t happened overnight.
“I am delighted to be in a position to make sure that the Patty continues to make Latino issues a priority,” said Villa.