Michael Smith, the new CEO of Catholic Charities of Long...

Michael Smith, the new CEO of Catholic Charities of Long Island. Credit: Catholic Charities of Long Islan

Catholic Charities of Long Island has named a new chief executive officer, a Long Island native who most recently served as the chief financial officer of Neighborhood Defender Service in Harlem, which provides public defender and social services to clients.

Michael Smith, who was reared in Rockville Centre, is slated to assume his duties at Catholic Charities Feb. 13, officials said. He is replacing Laura A. Cassell, who is retiring.

Bishop John Barres of the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, in a statement, praised Smith, saying his "blend of mission-driven, nonprofit leadership expertise and legal experience is critical for helping ensure that CCLI is positioned to carry out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy to a growing population in need on Long Island."

The organization has nearly 500 employees and 300 volunteers who serve an average of 53,000 people, its website says. Its budget for 2022 was $37,734,260.

Smith worked at Neighborhood Defender Service for 11 years, first as chief operating officer for nine years then as chief financial officer for two years, according to a spokesman for Catholic Charities.

In a statement, Smith said, "I believe in bringing an organization to life by activating values and engaging with every individual on the team to understand and drive purpose. I am excited to promote the work of CCLI and to provide mission-driven leadership."

In an email to Newsday responding to questions about his plans for the agency, Smith said: "My immediate goal is to familiarize myself with Long Island's nonprofit landscape … I'm also going to be doing a lot of visiting at Catholic Charities sites and meeting with staff. We have 10 major program ministries from Elmont to the East End that have been serving an average of 50,000 people a year, so I'm going to be busy."

Smith added, "Long-term, our goal remains the same: to assess the changing needs in our communities and then to either improve or develop ministries that meet those needs. But everything we do, from feeding the hungry to caring for the addicted to housing veterans — everything is about restoring hope, God's hope for all our neighbors, regardless of their faith or background."

Thomas Alexanderson, chair of the board of trustees, said in a statement. "We look forward to his leadership as we continue to enhance the services which CCLI provides to the forgotten and marginalized here on Long Island."

Catholic Charities has been operating on Long Island since 1957.

Smith, 60, graduated from Chaminade High School in Mineola. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Colgate University and a law degree from the University of Bridgeport School of Law, now known as Quinnipiac University School of Law.

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