Lizbeth Carrillo was sworn in Tuesday as the newest, youngest, and first-ever Hispanic woman to sit on the Patchogue Village Board of Trustees.
She is filling the vacancy left by Salvatore Felice, who resigned Dec. 1 after serving as a village trustee for a decade.
Carrillo said she first learned the news a few weeks ago that she would be appointed.
“In the beginning I was in complete shock when I was informed,” Carrillo said. “I feel honored and blessed.”
The 34-year-old came to the United States from Ecuador at the age of 5 with her parents.
She now lives with her mother, Emma, and her daughter, Leila, in the village, where she and other people who identify as Hispanic make up about 30 percent of the village’s population, according to U.S. Census figures from 2019.
Prior to her appointment, she served on the village’s Community Development Agency and the Zoning Board of Appeals. During her tenure, Mayor Paul Pontieri said she helped over 700 Patchogue residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations. She was especially crucial in helping members of the Hispanic community during this effort as she could translate important information for them, he said.
Her efforts followed her own battle with the virus in January 2021.
“Once I got COVID, I said ‘there is no way my mom’s getting this,” Carrillo said. “‘I need to look for a vaccine for her.'”
At the time, she said, getting her 64-year-old mother a vaccine slot was a challenge due to limited availability. But she got the shot, eventually, and as more became available, Carrillo helped other older community residents get vaccinated as well.
For the past three years, Carrillo has been a civilian liaison for the Suffolk County Police Department, working between the police and the county’s larger Hispanic community.
She is also an outreach director at St. Francis de Sales R.C. Church in Patchogue.
Pontieri said that when he first met Carrillo about six years ago, he saw “a spark in her that said she wanted to take care of not only her Hispanic community but the community in general.”
“She’s a doer and she’s committed to community, not only the Hispanic community. When you talk with her, she talks about their need to understand government and be part of government, but more importantly she always talks about the greater Patchogue community. She’s done quite a bit for a kid who’s just 34.”
When asked what she is most proud of so far, without a second thought, she replied “my daughter.”
In fact, her daughter, Leila, 13, was partially responsible for her mom’s other recent community work in neighboring Bellport.
Carillo said Frederick Combs, the interim chief executive officer for the Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area, asked her to help the organization connect with the Hispanic community.
So Carillo worked with the group to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month this fall. And last month, in November, she helped the group host a bilingual open house where members of the community could join the organization, as well as enjoy ceviche, empanadas, pupusa and other Latin American food.
Carillo said she viewed her work with the Boys and Girls club as a way to connect with her daughter, and for Leila to connect with the community, just as she does.
“I assisted them and I also told them of my goal of having programs for teenagers,” Carrillo said. “There’s not a lot of programs for teenagers. The way I help the community, I need to find a way that I can also assist my daughter in connecting with the community.”
“Kids represent innocence and I love it,” she added. “Usually I’m involved with older community members, and this gives me peace.”
‘Knowledge is power’
Carrillo graduated from Patchogue Medford High School in 2005 and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Dowling College in 2012.
She looks at her position as a trustee as not only a means to help the village better serve Patchogue’s Hispanic community and improve the community at-large, but also a new opportunity to learn.
“I’m looking forward to working with different groups in the village,” Carrillo said. “There’s so many things that I can learn from. I’m a big believer of knowledge is power. I love to join groups, to learn more, learn about myself, about community. I just like to be involved.”
Top: Liz Carrillo after being sworn in as Village Trustee Tuesday evening. Photo Credit: Jairo Zuluaga.