Arcelia Hurtado knows it will take a lot of energy to tackle the financial constraints facing Equal Rights Advocates, where she takes over Sept. 1 as executive director. But the 38-year-old is no stranger to penny counting.
She comes to the position from the San Francisco state public defender’s office, where she was an apellate attorney. “At the state level, we were experiencing a lot of furloughs and budget cuts,” Hurtado, pictured at left, told Legal Pad this afternoon.
So she'll start by thinking small ...
Hurtado said that apart from working with existing donors, she will focus on expanding the legal aid organization’s individual donor base. “Like the Obama campaign –- they asked a lot of people for a little money,” she said.
Equal Rights Advocates, which focuses on gender issues, has been scouring the nation for a new executive director to replace Irma Herrera, who left in June after 14 years.
Hurtado said a friend had forwarded information about the job opening to her. She said the interview process took three months, from the moment she sent in her materials, through four interviews, until the offer came.
Hurtado thinks the job dovetails neatly with her experience and interests. Hailing from an underprivileged area of South Texas, Hurtado says her primary focus over the years has been to serve as a lawyer for people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the legal system. She moved to Berkeley for college, and worked at La Raza Centro Legal, a San Francisco-based legal organization that focuses on the Latino community. Being fluent in Spanish helps her give a voice to those who don’t have one in a very real sense of the word, she said.
In recent years, Hurtado has been active on the board of Our Family Coalition, agitating on behalf of LGBT families in San Francisco, and on the Board of Women Defenders, which supports women in the transition to criminal defense careers.
Hurtado said the matters left to tackle are huge –- feminist movement spoils notwithstanding –- and topping her list are equal pay, organizing domestic workers, and family paid time off, whether to care for newborns or aging parents. “I think it’s a shame for the most industrialized country in the world –- the richest country in the world –- to subject women to these kinds of hardships,” Hurtado said. “It’s an area ripe for change.”
— Petra Pasternak