During the summer of 2000, Ms. Sandra (Owens) Nieves, Community Liaison with the City of West Columbia, met with Governor Jim Hodges to discuss the needs of the growing Hispanic/Latino population. As a result of that meeting, the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs was contacted by Ms. Leah Moody, Deputy Legal Counsel for the Governor’s Office, and asked to facilitate discussions with the Hispanic/Latino community to identify ways to better meet the needs of this growing population.
To fulfill the Commission’s role, the staff identified persons from throughout the State from various backgrounds, who interacted daily or were knowledgeable about the culture, language and needs of the Hispanic/Latino population. It would be their responsibility to identify barriers to the delivery of services to this primarily non-English speaking population, and to advise Governor Jim Hodges of their needs.
The first meeting of what became known as the Hispanic/Latino Ad Hoc Committee was held on Monday, July 24, 2000. Thereafter, the Ad Hoc Committee agreed to meet monthly. After a year long process of meeting and gathering information, a report was completed by the Ad Hoc Committee, which reflected the findings and recommendations that would help to address the many challenges faced by the Latino population in our State.
The findings were then presented to Governor Hodges for consideration. Upon the recommendation of Governor Hodges, Ms. Janie A. Davis, Executive Director of the SC Commission for Minority Affairs, began working with members of the General Assembly to amend the statute to include the Hispanic /Latino population so that the commission could continue doing research on this population to help improve the social and economic life for this population.
During the 115th SC Legislative Session Bill H 3426 was introduced and read for the first time on January 28, 2003. On July 2, 2003, Governor Mark Sanford signed the bill and the statute was amended to now include Hispanic/ Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and other ethnic minority groups Then in May 2004, regulations for the formation of Advisory Committees for each one of the minority groups (African American, Native American, Hispanic /Latino) were approved by members of the General Assembly and funds were allocated for program coordinators for each program. In the year 2004, the first Hispanic/Latino Program Coordinator was hired and the position was filled by Lee Serralta McElveen, a native of Puerto Rico.