Two UAlbany EOP Alums Elected to Office
Manny De Los Santos Elected to New York State Assembly
A UAlbany EOP alum is one of the newest members of the New York State Assembly. Manny De Los Santos, the son of two New York City street vendors, was elected to represent Manhattan’s 72nd District on February 15. The district includes the Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill neighborhoods.
De Los Santos, a Democrat, came to politics after 13 years as a Manhattan social worker and community school director — a career that began at UAlbany.
As a junior undergraduate student, De Los Santos transferred to UAlbany from SUNY Cobleskill in Spring 2001. At UAlbany, the EOP “was everything to me,” De Los Santos said. “They gave me the additional educational support I needed. When I needed to decompress, when I needed direction as a young man, they were instrumental in shaping the person I am today. It was the human part of it — their holistic approach. In social work, we say you meet the person where they’re at.”
He chose UAlbany to continue his passion for track and cross-country. His most important mentor here was cross-country coach Kevin Williams, who now serves as Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School. When De Los Santos was considering counseling as a career, Williams who steered him toward a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. “People see in you what you don’t see in yourself,” De Los Santos said.
Armed with Williams’ letter, De Los Santos applied and got into the two-year MSW program. After graduating with his degree, he spent the next 13 years as a social worker in New York City, “working with AIDS, HIV, you name it.”
He was back in the area he knew so well from helping his mother, Dominga, with her job as a clothing vendor on 177th Street — putting into action the moral values she had instilled in. De Los Santos calls his mother “a magical woman, the shero” of his story. Dominga arrives at work at 5 a.m. seven days a week and gets home at 7 or 8 p.m. “Without her hard-core moral values, I wouldn’t be here today. She has been that light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
De Los Santos also continued to do volunteer work in his community: working in a Washington Heights tenants association, speaking to groups of young people, and, since 2009, serving as a district leader for the Democratic Party.
Then, on February 15, 2022, his life changed. A special election was held to replace Carmen De La Rosa, who resigned from the New York State Assembly to take a seat on the New York City Council. De Los Santos won the election with 62% of the popular vote, earning more votes than both his rivals combined.
So, how’s his new job? “I love it!” he said. “Now I have the honor and the power to work on legislation that’s important to my district.”
George Serrano Elected Town Supervisor in Wallkill
George Serrano, born and raised in the Bronx, graduated from UAlbany's EOP program three decades ago. Now, after a distinguished career in law enforcement, he has set foot on the political stage. In November, Serrano was elected supervisor of Wallkill, a Orange County town with a population of 32,000.
“EOP got me here, set my foundations,” Serrano said. “It makes better students – teaches you how to manage your time. I got here when (former UAlbany EOP director) Vernon Buck was here. Then, (Buck's predecessor) Dr. (Carson) Carr – a tall man, a big guy, but very gentle and soft-spoken.”
Transitioning from his Bronx high school, where classes had about 25 students, to UAlbany, where classes can have up to 400 students, was "a shock," he said. But getting involved on campus boosted Serrano's confidence.
He served as president of Fuerza Latina, a residential assistant (RA), a member of the Student Association and an Affirmative Action officer. Carr also helped him get an internship at the New York State Public Service Commission. Serrano said all these roles helped him develop interpersonal skills, as he learned to work with different types of people.
After graduation, he became a corrections officer at Ryker’s Island, where he worked for three years. Then, he took an exam to become a police officer and was hired — a move his parents, who had come to New York from Puerto Rico, weren’t excited about.
“They didn’t see why I would go to college and then be a police officer,” Serrano recalled. “I said, at this point, this is what I want to do. That started a career I can’t say enough good things about."
His law enforcement career included a year as a patrolman, several years in undercover narcotics work and 22 years as a detective. As one of the few detectives on the force who spoke Spanish, he was busy — working on cases that involved Spanish-speaking victims and/or suspects. In 1996, he and six other White Plains officers started the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association. Serrano said the organization has grown and strengthened in the years since.
Wallkill saw heated debate regarding its police budget in 2021 and Serrano, now retired from police work, was asked to run for town supervisor as a Republican. “I said ‘I’ll do it,’” he said. “I don’t have regrets.”
The former detective was back to knocking on doors but, this time, he was asking for signatures and votes, not looking for suspects or handling warrants. “I like meeting people, talking to people,” he said. “Joe Citizen wants to be heard. People want to talk.”
On November 2, 2021, Serrano beat the incumbent Democratic supervisor by more than 8%. “My phone started going bananas,” he said.
Serrano said the new job has a learning curve but he credits the people skills he learned at UAlbany for helping him adjust quickly.
“What you learn here, the skills you learn, will always be with you and you might now know you are using them,” Serrano said. "It’s just automatic to me, what I learned here. ... This is the start of your life – it’s going to define you.”