On the eve of the Somos el Futuro spring conference in Albany this weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is posied to
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Cesar Perales, civil rights attorney and co-founder of the nonprofit Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, to serve as his secretary of state.

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Perales is yet another veteran of the first Cuomo administration. He served as Mario Cuomo’s state Social Services commissioner during the former governor’s first two terms. In 1991, he was named deputy mayor for Health and Human Services by then-NYC Mayor David Dinkins.

Perales left government in 1994 to become senior VP at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. While at the hospital, he developed a Community Health Care system that received national recognition. He returned in 2003 to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which he founded in the early 1970s, and remained there until 2010.

There’s now a tradition of naming a Latino (or Latina, as the case may be) to this post. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer named Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, who had close ties to ex-Assemblyman-turned-lobbyist Roberto Ramirez, to the position. She stayed through much of the Paterson administration, resigning last July to take a job with the AARP.

I received an e-mail late last night from the “Latino News Service,” which beat Cuomo to the punch in announcing Perales’ appointment. The release deemed him “well-respected in the Latino community in New York and across the nation,” and then added the following observations:

“Perales has a strong record of advocating for social and economic justice issues. However it is unclear what power the position brings based on the history of the position of Secretary of State and its recent office holders. The position was considered a stepping stone to higher office or state-wide office, but Perales is now in his 70′s.”

“With no Hispanic holding a state-wide or New York City wide political office and with Census data showing Hispanic growth is substantial in 60 of 62 counties in the State, the appointment makes two the number of Hispanic serving as heads of state agencies under Andrew Cuomo. Three weeks ago, the Senate confirmed Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez as Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.”

It’s worth noting here that Mario Cuomo served as secretary of state under then-Gov. Hugh Carey after he lost the 1974 Democratic LG primary election to Mary Ann Krupsak.

Also, Gov. Cuomo is expected to attend this weekend’s Somos festivities, speaking at the Saturday night gala and hosting a reception at a yet-undisclosed date and location.

UPDATE: It’s now official, here’s the press release from Cuomo’s office:

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES THE NOMINATION OF CESAR A. PERALES FOR NEW YORK STATE SECRETARY OF STATE

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the nomination of Cesar A. Perales for the Secretary of State of New York. Mr. Perales will also serve as a senior advisor for policy to the Governor.

“Cesar Perales has devoted his life to public service,” Governor Cuomo said. “He is one of our most distinguished New Yorkers and will be an exceptional Secretary of State. I look forward to working with Cesar in making New York stronger and restoring dignity and honor to our state government. I thank Ruth Colon for her dedication as acting Secretary of State and look forward to her continued service to New York.”

Cesar A. Perales has a 50 year record as a dedicated public servant. As co-founder of the Latino Justice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (Latino Justice PRLDEF), Mr. Perales served as its first Executive Director and returned later in his career to serve as its President and General Counsel.

Mr. Perales has held numerous positions in both public and private sectors throughout his distinguished career, including:

· Founding the first Brooklyn Legal Services Office;
· General Counsel for the Model Cites Administration, under Mayor John V. Lindsay;
· Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, nominated by President Jimmy Carter;
· Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Service, appointed by former Governor Mario M. Cuomo;
· Deputy Mayor of New York City under Mayor David N. Dinkins;
· Senior Vice President for Community Health at The New York Presbyterian Hospital;
· Senior Fellow at Baruch College School of Public Affairs
Mr. Perales grew up in New York City. Mr. Perales earned his B.A. from City College of New York in 1962 and a J.D. from Fordham Law School in 1965. Throughout his career, Mr. Perales has been recognized for his dedication to community development and social justice. Among others distinctions, Mr. Perales was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Lehman College, the Thurgood Marshall Award from Seton Hall University Law School and the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic National Bar Association.

As Secretary of State of New York, Mr. Perales will be leading the oldest agency in the New York State government. Established in 1778, the Office of the Secretary of State is a historically distinguished position that has been held by some of New York’s most esteemed public servants, beginning with Revolutionary War General John Scotts, to John Adams Dix, who served as U.S. Treasury Secretary, a Civil War General, and the 24th Governor of New York. Other notable Secretaries of State include Robert Moses, Mario M. Cuomo, Basil A. Paterson, and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “After spending decades in public service, New York is privileged that Mr. Perales has decided to dedicate his talents to strengthening our state. From his work with low-income communities, to his steadfast advocacy for minority groups, Mr. Perales has demonstrated his outstanding commitment to serving others. Under his leadership, the Department of State will go above and beyond its expected role, and Mr. Perales’ care and dedication will be reflected in its vital task.”

David N. Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City, said, “When I asked Cesar Perales to join my administration in 1992, I knew I was appointing a uniquely qualified public servant who would change the way New York City served its most needy residents. His record of service speaks for itself, as the programs he created and implemented in a very short time were the centerpiece of my administration’s efforts and success in helping the homeless population in New York. By appointing Cesar Perales Secretary of State, Governor Cuomo is sending a strong message that his administration is fighting for all New Yorkers and is truly committed to building a better New York.”

Basil A. Paterson, former New York State Secretary of State, said, “From serving in President Carter’s administration, to joining Governor Mario Cuomo’s government, and serving as Deputy Mayor during Mayor Dinkins’ administration, Mr. Perales has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to using the resources of government to serve the public good. There are few more qualified, both in experience and dedication to service, than Cesar and I applaud Governor Cuomo for appointing this talented public servant to the important position of Secretary of State.”

Assemblyman Félix Ortiz, Chairman of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, “I am thrilled to hear this wonderful news. This is a great opportunity for the Hispanic community to have a representative in such a prestigious position working on their behalf. Mr. Perales is a legend in our community, who truly understands the struggles and issues affecting our Hispanic families. I am confident that he will work hard and advocate for the Hispanic community and all New Yorkers, and I look forward to working with him and Governor Cuomo to bring about positive change in our great state.”

Congressman José E. Serrano said, “I can’t think of a better choice for Secretary of State than Cesar Perales. Governor Cuomo has found a public servant of top notch quality and I applaud him for this wise selection. Since the early 1970s, Cesar has shared my vision for social equality for all New Yorkers and we have worked together on that goal over the years. He will do a great job in this new role.”

Assemblyman Peter Rivera said, “Mr. Perales is a natural fit to be Secretary of State for the State of New York. He comes to this position after working for decades both within government and for organizations dedicated to improving people’s lives. For those of us familiar with Mr. Perales’ work, he will bring a new direction to the Department of State, one that is focused on assuring that all New Yorkers have equal opportunity and are treated fairly. New Yorkers should rejoice that Mr. Perales will join the efforts of Governor Cuomo’s administration to rebuild New York into a better, stronger state.”

Suleika Cabrera Drinane, President and CEO of the Institute for the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Inc., said, “From fighting on behalf of CUNY students in the 1960s to co-founding one of the most effective civil rights organizations in the country, Mr. Perales is a lifetime advocate for those whose voices are often shut out of the political process. His success at using the power of government to improve the lives of people across New York State and America is exemplary, and will come to great use as Secretary of State. I commend Governor Cuomo for choosing Mr. Perales, and I have no doubt the positive impact of Mr. Perales’ work will be felt by all New Yorkers.”

Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, said, “I could not be happier with Governor Cuomo’s choice for Secretary of State. For the decades I have known Mr. Perales, he has always been front and center in the fight for civil rights for all. His work in President Carter’s administration laid the foundation for his success at advocating for the disabled, mentally ill, and others while serving in Governor Mario Cuomo’s administration. New York City’s approach to helping the homeless changed as a result of Mr. Perales’ leadership, and his work with Latino Justice PRLDEF is widely recognized as instrumental in today’s fight for immigrants’ rights. New York is very lucky that Mr. Perales has accepted this appointment, and there is no doubt his leadership will greatly impact this state.”

The Department of State provides a variety of services to citizens, community organizations, businesses and local governments. With over 17 divisions, the Department is one of the state’s most diverse agencies, and the broad nature of the Department’s work has an impact on all New Yorkers.

Known as the “Keeper of Records” for more than two centuries, the Department of State is the initial point of entry for entrepreneurs seeking to do business in New York. The Department licenses and regulates over thirty different occupations, covering a range of professions from barbers to real estate brokers. The Secretary of State oversees and maintains the process businesses undergo in order to become successful operating entities in New York State. The Secretary files certificates of incorporation, authorizes foreign corporations to do business within the State, and handles registration of trademarks and service-marks.

The Department of State recently developed the Office of Coastal, Local Government, and Community Sustainability. Its creation enables the Department to assist over 1,500 municipalities throughout the state on matters such as economic development, local and regional planning, governmental modernization, waterfront and brownfield revitalization, and natural resource management. The Office streamlines these various programs into a concerted effort to improve community services, strengthen local and regional economies, and preserve coastal ecosystems.

The Office is also responsible for administering the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program provides $56 million dollars annually to community action agencies and programs, with the aim of combating poverty, promoting family and individual self-sufficiency and creating more livable communities.