Javier H. Valdés and Deborah Axt, co-executive directors of Make the Road New York, are handing over the reins of New York City’s largest immigration advocacy organization after more than a decade at the helm.
Details: The plans for the leadership shift have been in the works for some time. Valdés and Axt will hand over authority to three longtime members who have been top aides, effective April 1 of next year: Theo Oshiro, Arlenis Morel and Jose Lopez, who have been with the group for 16 years, according to an announcement previewed by POLITICO.
“We came in with the intention of doing this. We wanted to transition when we were at our strongest,” Valdés said in a statement. “We’re strong in all our infrastructure. Our financials are strong.”
The group is currently constructing a 24,000square foot community center in Corona, Queens that the 24,000-member organization hopes will be completed next Fall.
Oshiro, an immigrant from Peru, was the advocacy group’s first hire to spearhead their legal department and helped it expand into Westchester and New Jersey.
Morel entered the organization as the daughter of one of the founding members. She helped build Make the Road NY’s infrastructure and lead their strategic planning process as chief of staff.
Lopez joined as a teenager after stumbling upon his cousins in the organization’s Bushwick office. He has led the group’s Youth Power Project and worked in its organizing department.
“He just delivers. His heart is in it and he just doesn’t falter,” Axt said of Oshiro. She also highlighted Morel as “the glue of our organization” and said Lopez is someone who “is not just ready to lead the organization but to be preparing the folks who will come after them.”
What’s next: Both Axt and Valdés did not say what they’re next moves will be. Oshiro, Morel and Lopez will be taking on their new leadership roles ahead of a packed election season that includes vacancies in the offices of the mayor and comptroller and two-thirds of City Council seats.
“We don’t imagine any sudden shift,” said Axt. “We’re thrilled to have been able to be in these positions for the tripling of our budget and our membership and for the organization to just be in this really powerful moment of its history. And we plan on being in this movement family for the rest of our lives, and we’re just excited to be able to step aside into a different role.”