Mayor Andre Sayegh has hired school board president Oshin Castillo to serve as director of the Health and Human Services Department in the city.
Sayegh made the announcement on Thursday morning, exactly three months after the Paterson Times reported on her imminent hire. She will start in the new position on Sept. 3, 2019, according to the announcement.
“Oshin has experience working in Human Services and will provide insight on the best practices learned from her previous position,” said Sayegh. “She’s also making history as the first Dominican American department head. Paterson will benefit from her leadership.”
Castillo spent the past year working as a “special assistant” to the human services director at the Passaic County government — an apparent post to build resume experience for the city job as some officials questioned her lack of qualifications for the municipal post when the mayor floated the idea soon after coming into office.
Sayegh’s announcement states Castillo planned and organized initiatives on intellectual disabilities and opioids while working as a special assistant. She also participated in advisory council, youth services, human services committee, and state meetings with the New Nersey Department of Human Service and the Department of Children and Families, says the announcement.
Castillo did not respond to a call and message for comment on Thursday morning.
“I’ll take a look at the recommendation during the confirmation,” said William McKoy, longest serving member of the City Council. “We need a highly skilled person in that position.”
Castillo will serve as acting director until the City Council confirms her appointment.
McKoy said the previous director, Donna Nelson-Ivy, was a “highly-skilled professional” and that “she set a high bar.”
Nelson-Ivy had extensive experience in the human services area, but came under intense criticism for her role in a scandal involving a needle exchange operator. She had survived two administration, but was booted out last year.
Paul Persaud, a medical doctor, had been serving as acting director since Jul. 1, 2018. He filled the double role of health and human services director and director of the division of health. He served in both positions with a single salary, saving the city more than $100,000 last fiscal year.
Persaud had expressed a disinterest in serving as health and human services director.
Castillo’s director salary is set at $92,000.
She collects $47,000 working as a confidential secretary to the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She was hired to the post in Sept. 2016, nine months after becoming a school board member.
She worked at Paterson Medical LLC from September 2015 until she was hired by Passaic County. Prior to that she worked as a business development representative at TD Bank on Valley Road in Wayne from February 2015 through September 2015.
Castillo won re-election last year for another three-year term on the Board of Education.
Castillo has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Communications from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She completed her internship at the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Division from August 2010 through September 2012, according to her resume.
Sayegh said she will focus on developing citywide strategies to combat homelessness and the opioid epidemic.