PATERSON, NJ - In a formal ceremony held in City Council Chambers in Paterson City Hall on Thursday, over 150 people witnessed the official appointment of Oshin Castillo as the city’s new Director of Health and Human Services.
Friends, family members, and local officials recognized Castillo for her long record of public service. As small replicas of the flag of Castillo’s native country, the Dominican Republic, were waved throughout the audience, Mayor Andre Sayegh extolled the new appointee as, “the first Dominican department head in the history of Paterson.”
Sayegh said he had recently visited the island for the first time and gained “a deeper understanding of the richness of Dominican culture.”
“This is an historic day,” Sayegh stated. “The Dominican Republic flag is the only flag in the world to have a Bible on it. It is opened to John chapter eight and verse 32: ‘You shall know the truth and truth shall set you free.’ This is a great day for all Paterson residents as well as those from the Dominican Republic. In the past you were asked for your vote, today I want you to know you have a place in our Administration.”
Sayegh described Castillo as “battle tested.”
“Oshin’s leadership has been on display the last two years as the president of the Paterson school board,” Sayegh continued. “She has a love for, and knows, children. She brings institutional knowledge and experience. She is a team leader and a team player.”
On hand was Castillo’s fiancé Orlando Cruz who, in addition to telling the audience he was looking forward to his October wedding, said his bride-to-be was previously the youngest official ever elected in Paterson and the first Latina to be nominated as president of the school board.
Castillo previously worked as a special assistant to the director of the Passaic County Human Services Department. Her responsibilities in the position included initiating and organizing programs to aid those with intellectual disabilities and struggling with opioids, as well as working with youth services and collaborating with the State Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families.
As current school board president, Castillo and her colleagues preside over 30,000 students, 5,000 employees, and a half a billion dollar, yearly budget. Castillo has also managed the collective bargaining process for school district employees and chaired the Finance, Government, and Family and Community Engagement committees.
“I believe that Oshin is ready and well qualified for this position,” Fifth Ward Councilman Luis Velez, whose electoral area includes the largest population of Dominicans in the city, said. “It is not an easy task to choose those who understand their community and she does.”
Paterson Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale praised Castillo for her involvement helping those affected by the recent fire that destroyed the Straight and Narrow counseling center.
“Oshin was there, right away, in the early morning after the fire,” Speziale stated. “She was in constant contact with me to see that those who were displaced received housing and provisions, including food and water. She also took part in a tour of areas to observe the problem of homelessness. I believe she will make outstanding contributions to our society.”
Freeholder Bruce James, though lamenting the loss of Castillo from his department, said, “I could think of no one better to serve the city of Paterson.”
In concluding remarks, Castillo thanked her family, her pastor, the Rev. Marcelo Realpe, her colleagues, and city residents.
“I am proud that I was born in the Dominican Republic but I live in Paterson,” Castillo said. “I love Paterson. “My desire is to help people that don’t have the resources, to support them so they can have a better life. Seniors not only need activities, they need insurance, home health care, and transportation. Children with disabilities and special needs should be cared for. Those who are suffering with mental health issues and with drug abuse are in need. Many are in need of housing, finding a job, counseling, or legal support. We desire to provide wrap around services. These things exist. It’s not if we have the resources but rather how to direct people to them.”
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