Perth Amboy mayor says her family and Hispanic heritage helps her succeed as mayor

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Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz was New Jersey’s first Latina mayor when she was elected 11 years ago.

Diaz says she often reflects on being the mayor of the city where she grew up.

“I had no idea that one day I would be mayor of the city of Perth Amboy,” she says.

Diaz’s parents came to New Jersey from Puerto Rico in the 1950s.

“They came here with the American Dream to build a better life for themselves,” she says.

Diaz is one of six girls. She says that her house was never quiet, and with a large number of families coming over from Puerto Rico at that time, it was always busy.

"All our families knew each other and they would get together and we would have great celebrations in our home, always with our Spanish music and cooking - great cooking,” she says.

Diaz became mayor of Perth Amboy in 2008 after leaving a job in banking. She was the first Latina mayor in the history of New Jersey.

"I had no political background at the time so it took a lot of soul-searching and really believing that I could do the job,” she says.

But she says that it was her family background that was her biggest asset in connecting with Perth Amboy residents. Perth Amboy’s population is 80% Hispanic.

“They come here with a dream, like my family came. They want their children to be successful. They want an education. They want to be able to provide for their families and it's no different than my life experience,” she says.

Diaz says that she owes much of her success to her family.

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