After two years, the search is over. The National Hispanic Cultural Center has found a permanent executive director in Albuquerque attorney -- and New Mexico native -- Rebecca L. Avitia.
Avitia's appointment will mark the first time a woman is at the helm of the center.
Avitia will fill a role that has been vacant since March 2011, when then-director Estevan Rael-Galvez resigned after more than a year in the position. Avitia begins her post Feb. 1. The estimated salary range is from $75,000 to $85,000 a year.
"I am pleased our extensive and thorough search has brought us an outstanding leader from New Mexico," said Veronica N. Gonzales, state Department of Cultural Affairs secretary. "Ms. Avitia is a young and exciting leader with a formidable record of accomplishment. Her impressive skills will complement the Center's exceptional staff and move the NHCC forward in its further development as the nation's preeminent facility celebrating Hispanic culture, arts and humanities."
The NHCC board of directors and Cultural Affairs conducted a national search for the past two years to fill the position. Members of the NHCC board were determined to find the right candidate because the nation's only Hispanic cultural center has had 10 directors or interim directors over the past 12 years.
Christopher Saucedo, NHCC board president, has said the board wanted to find a candidate who is invested in the center and feels that both candidates sent to Gov. Susana Martinez for approval were more than qualified.
Former NHCC marketing director Danny Lopez, who is now at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., was the other candidate.
Avitia leaves the Montgomery & Andrews Law Firm to accept the position. She also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law and was previously an assistant district attorney for the 13th Judicial District Attorney's Office in Valencia County.
Before returning to New Mexico, Avitia worked in New York as a litigation associate for the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP law firm. While a law student, she was an extern for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, then with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Original headline: Hispanic center names new head
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