Tamaqua resident Maria Montero, 35, was recently appointed executive director of two state boards – the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Governor's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.
This isn't the first time Montero has earned a role in state government. Approximately 10 years ago, Montero was appointed by then Gov. Tom Ridge as a member of the Commission on Latino Affairs while she was a law student at Widener.
Montero's said her new positions involve creating and implementing direction for each commission to follow for the betterment of Women and the Latino Community in the commonwealth, and to include meeting with key leaders to promote advocacy and direction on behalf of women and Latinos.
"Both commissions have board members who are integral in steering the directions of the commissions," said Montero, a founding member of the Allentown-based Power of Women group. "Once the board has been selected, I will be working closely with them to create a strategic, results-oriented plan."
Montero, who also speaks Spanish, said, "I love connecting great ideas that have been successful in one part of the state as a solution to an issue in another part of our state. Pennsylvanians are diverse in thought and innovative, and I'm looking forward to sharing and networking the ideas into plans the commissions will utilize."
Pointing out that the Greater Pittsburgh Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has a very successful Latino business foundation, Montero stressed that the Northeastern part of Pennsylvania doesn't have a Latino Chamber. She said Gov. Tom Corbett's Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs wants to help the Latino owned businesses in Northeastern Pennsylvania increase their business efficiency and acumen by advocating and helping implement a similar organization like the one in Pittsburgh.
"Regarding women's leadership, the Erie area has a strong women's presence in both business leadership and women in elected office," Montero added.
"The women's commission through education, forums and outreach hopes to inspire more women to start their own businesses and run for elected office with the successes achieved in Erie."
Montero, who didn't pursue these positions, said, "What inspired me to accept the positions was a true concern to bring conservative, small town values to Harrisburg. I have always worked in private sector, I am bringing to government an innovative, real world way of thinking with results oriented action plans."
Montero has been involved in many local and state organizations, including: Tamaqua Lions, Tamaqua Spirit of Christmas, Power of Women network initiative, Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, Schuylkill Community Action, St. Joseph Center Golf Tournament, Marian Catholic High School booster, and Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Tamaqua.
"A major concern in the Latino community is the high school dropout rate. A major focus of the commission will be creating mentor programs that help support these kids achieve graduation and entrance into college," she said.
"Our region is very unique, a true success story," Montero, who was born in Coaldale and raised in Summit Hill, added. "All over my travels across the state, I spread the word on the successes of our Blueprint Community, our beautiful train station, our strong Chamber of Commerce and our community college. I love Northeast Pa., this is my home.
"Women have come a long way, and there are many more successes to follow, especially in motivating and supporting more women to run for elected office. In Harrisburg, 16 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate are women serving. Considering women are 51 percent of our state's population, we have much room to grow in the civic leadership arena," said Montero.
Montero pointed out that Gov. Corbett has proclaimed March as Women's History Month in Pennsylvania to celebrate the many contributions of women in the state and promote continued gains in women's leadership and entrepreneurship.
"Every day, women business owners embrace the entrepreneurial spirit by taking risks to achieve success," said Corbett. "They strengthen the fabric of our commonwealth and I champion the Pennsylvania Commission for Women's goals of supporting our state's women entrepreneurs as an integral part of Pennsylvania's continued economic success."
Montero stressed that anyone can contact her for help at (717) 787-5825.
"I am so happy to receive so much support from the Latino leaders and women from around the state," she added. "I feel very blessed to have so many people come to me, shake my hand and I can say to them, 'Let me know what I can do to help you.'
"I'm really thankful for being given the opportunity to reach out to all the people in my community and look forward to their helping hands and support."