New Hempstead Town Supervisor Brings Down Language Barriers

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen (Photo via Noticia Long Island)

Laura Gillen is the Town of Hempstead supervisor, the first Democrat to win the seat after more than a century of Republican control.

She started her job in January 2018 with the promise of creating a fair government for all residents, including those who don’t speak English. That’s why her administration announced that, for the first time, it will offer free translation services in several languages, especially Spanish, as part of a new era that, in her words, will be marked by transparency.

“First of all, I am very grateful to all the voters who supported me. I have the opportunity to bring new ideas, leadership and fresh air to the Town de Hempstead,” said Gillen, who is lawyer specialized in government issues and also has experience in commercial litigation and community volunteering (…)

The Town of Hempstead, occupying the southwestern part of Nassau county, is comprised of 22 incorporated villages, including Hempstead, Freeport, Mineola, Valley Stream, Elmont, Franklin Square, Roosevelt and Uniondale. Many Latinos are among its residents, and the Town has found that Spanish is the second language more used in the area, with some 100,000 speakers.

The Town will soon start offering free translation and interpretation services to residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and has already started translating to Spanish all vital documents so they are available online. The translation service, which will be provided mainly by phone, was approved unanimously by the Town’s board.

“I am proud of having led this important change. To help residents navigate the town’s issues in a language they can understand is key to our government’s functioning,” said the supervisor.

Hempstead residents will be able to access by phone interpreters in any language spoken around the world before the end of this month. This program is part of Gillen’s efforts to start her term giving an equal footing to all.

“Since my administration started we have detected problems to which we are seeking solutions,” said Gillen, pointing out that past administrations limited the opportunities for businesses to get contracts with the Town of Hempstead.

“In the past you needed to have a relative [in the administration] or have connections in order to obtain a contract. From now on, there will be transparency,” said Gillen, pointing out that people who are not proficient in English will be able find the tools to apply for a town contract in their own language.

Another measure championed by the elected official has been to promote part-time job opportunities in schools, which recently led to some 300 youths showing up to a call for summer jobs in the local administration.

The supervisor also stressed the need to work with schools in the Town’s 22 villages. “I organized the first meeting of school superintendents because I want to open a dialogue between school districts and the town, and also between the different school districts,” she said.

“We need to seek solutions to such problems as drugs or mental health that we are currently experiencing, and work together to save money and benefit all residents while keeping taxes low,” she said, adding that her administration is particularly focused on the well-being of minorities and the inclusion of all Hempstead residents.

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