The governor-elect prioritized professional experience over political profile in making his appointments.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Governor-elect Pedro Pierluisi has announced the first nominees to his cabinet.
Just over a month after the general election, the New Progressive Party (PNP by its Spanish initials) candidate presented on Wednesday and Thursday his choices to lead the most important government agencies. His choices stand out because the new officials are being chosen more for experience in their fields rather than party affiliation.
The Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly, which according to the general audit, has a majority of representatives from the Popular Democratic Party (PPD by its Spanish initials), will be in charge of confirming the appointees.
“I trust our legislative assembly will evaluate them fairly, and that they will be confirmed because they have the ‘karats,’” Pierluisi said at a news conference at the Antiguo Casino in San Juan.
The nominees are for some of the top positions within the government’s cabinet and departments. Secretaries will be appointed for the Department of State, Department of Economic Development, and Department of Education.
Pierluisi did not make changes in some agencies, so several top officials will remain in their posts. Francisco Parés, secretary of the Treasury; Omar Marrero, executive director of the Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency; and Carlos Rivera, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH by its Spanish initials) will all remain in place.
These are the new nominees, and their trajectories:
- Larry Seilhamer Rodríguez is the nominee for the chief of staff position. Born in New York City and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He is a civil engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the private sector. As a professional basketball player, he played 17 seasons with the national team. Seilhamer was also a tennis player and represented the island in several tournaments. He began his political career in Ponce as director of budget and planning operations and director of housing and urban development. In 2008, he became a senator for the Ponce district. Seilhamer was part of the Senate majority whip from 2009 to 2012. In 2011, he became Senate majority leader. He was reelected in 2012 and 2016. He resigned because of personal reasons in early 2020.
- Elba L. Aponte is nominated for secretary of the Department of Education. She was president of the Teachers Association, elected in 2019 after years of experience in special education, Spanish, and adult-education teaching. This year she was elected vice president of the American Federation of Teachers.
- Domingo Emanuelli is the governor-elect’s nominee for Department of Justice secretary. In 1974 he graduated magna cum laude in general studies from the University of Puerto Rico. He completed his Juris Doctor and graduated cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law in 1977. In his 43 years of experience as a lawyer, he has specialized in corporate, commercial, criminal, and civil litigation. He also works as a notary lawyer and is an active member of the Puerto Rico Bar Association. Emanuelli is pro-statehood and a political analyst.
- Manuel Cidre is the nominee for secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Trade position. Cidre ran for governor of Puerto Rico as an independent candidate in 2016. Born in Cuba, he moved to Puerto Rico at a young age. In 1978, he established a bakery in Bayamón, Los Cidrines, with brother Guillermo Cidre. The business grew throughout the island and outside Puerto Rico. The businessman is known for his philanthropic work. He founded Alianza para el Desarrollo Económico de Puerto Rico (Alliance for the Economic Development of Puerto Rico).
- Carlos Mellado López is nominated for the secretary of the Health Department position. He is a general practice doctor. He was associate medical director of the Doctors’ Center Hospital in the municipality of Carolina, located near San Juan, and also had a practice in Canóvanas, a municipality in northeastern Puerto Rico. In 2009, then-Gov.Luis Fortuño of the PNP appointed him procurator of health. In 2012, he was appointed Puerto Rico health and patient advocate by then-Gov. Alejandro García Padilla of the PPD. He resigned from that position in 2015 because of disagreements with the governmental administration. Known for his philanthropy, in 2010 he assembled a group of doctors to travel to Haiti and treat survivors from an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale.
- William Rodríguez is nominated for the Housing Department secretary position. He was the administrator of the Public Housing Administration (AVP by its Spanish initials). In 2019, the lawyer negotiated Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) federal funds. Pierluisi, additionally, has announced Thursday that Alejandro Salgado Colón will be the new AVP administrator, the position previously held by Rodríguez. Colón has been a general counsel at that agency in recent years.