Verna Eggleston

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Administrator-Commissioner, Human Resources Administration, Department of Social Services, City of New York

Verna Eggleston, commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administra-tion, manages 14,000 employees and a $5.6 billion budget, providing services to more than 3 million people. The largest municipal social services agency in the country, HRA meets needs with welfare-to-work programs, temporary public assistance, H.I.V./AIDS support, domestic violence prevention, homelessness prevention and emergency intervention, among others. “Growing up during a period that had many social issues requiring [her] personal response” prompted her to pursue a career in public service, she says.

Before Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration appointed her in 2002, Eggleston was executive director at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s first gay and lesbian high school. She also served under Mayor Edward I. Koch in the New York City Child Welfare Administration and under Mayor David Dinkins as director of New York City’s Family Shelter Programs.

An advocate, policy maker and spokesperson for a variety of issues facing at-risk youth and their families, Eggleston was instrumental in drafting the National Child Protection Act, informally known as the “Oprah Bill,” with Ms. Winfrey and the former Illinois governor, Jim Thompson.

She confesses that discussing children’s rights with President Bill Clinton was both a professional and personal highlight, punctuated by her work with Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Janet Reno on hate crimes legislation, youth violence prevention and adolescent mental health issues.

Perhaps it is the ancient Chinese proverb that motivates the work of every public servant, evidenced by Eggleston’s three decades in the field: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for
a lifetime.”

Meanwhile, Verna Eggleston continues to be a recognized leader in the ongoing dialogue on societal reform, maintaining that successful public service restores pride by empowering people and enabling self-sufficiency.

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