Chelsea’s Juan Vega has left the Broadway headquarters of Centro Latino for the last time this week, but he’s begun a new commute to the State House at the same time – agreeing this week to join Jay Ash, state secretary for Housing and Economic Development, as a specialist in developing local leadership and community organizations statewide.
Vega will be the assistant secretary for communities and programs, and his first day on the job was yesterday, July 1.
“Last week we talked and he asked me to join his team and I accepted,” said Vega. “I’ll be joining Jay as assistant secretary for communities and programs. He has this grand vision for getting more cities and towns to plan collaboratively on economic development, especially Gateway Cities. I think Jay recognized my experience working here and my coalition and collaborative building here could help to get folks talking to each other statewide. We hope to get people talking more about developing downtowns, infrastructure and even roads.”
Ash said he was glad to have Vega working with him after many years of collaborating with him in Chelsea. He said he hopes to create the same community-based organization structure statewide that was built in Chelsea.
“I am very excited Juan said ‘yes,’” said Ash. “I have known him for many years and greatly admired his work, many times being the beneficiary of his work and many times being the target of his work. He did things thoughtfully and the right way. I’ve tapped Juan for this because I have a great deal of respect for him, both politically and as a community-based organization leader. One thing we’re really focused on here is creating leadership – producing it where it doesn’t exist and enhancing it where it does exist. Juan has been central to that effort in Chelsea. The spirit of leadership we had in Chelsea can be duplicated across the state and Juan was a big part of creating that in Chelsea.”
Ash said the position is a statewide position and will mean that Vega will be traveling the state to create a replica of Chelsea’s success model.
Vega said he has been interested in doing work for the state for some time, and considered joining former Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration a few years ago. However, when Ash was chosen as secretary, Vega said he was keenly interested in joining the team if it worked out.
“I do a ton of state contracts here at Centro Latino,” he said. “It always caught my attention and I needed a break from the non-profit scene after 17 years here and to change up the scenery a bit…It is hard. This organization is 25 years old and I am have been the head of it for 17 years. I”m the fourth executive director. When I got here, I did help build the organization and the brand and helped Centro look beyond Chelsea’s boundaries…I’m confident the organization will be fine without me. There’s a lot of work being done on education and housing. It has been bittersweet. As the final day got closer, it began to get surreal because it’s been so much a part of my life. I am able to walk to the office from my house many times and now I’ll have a regular commute into town.”
Centro Latino has put an inte
rim director in place for the time being.
They’ve also engaged the consultant Third Sector New England to assist the Board of Directors in searching for a permanent director to lead them onward.
Vega, who is also a commissioner at the Chelsea Housing Authority, said he was unsure if he would be able to maintain his seat on that board. He said the question has been posed and he will address that situation when he gets an answer.