Mary Porter, who has worked as a Manhattan prosecutor and an assistant Suffolk County attorney, has been named as the new $97,901-a-year executive director of the Suffolk Human Rights Commission.
The 15-member commission voted unanimously last month to name Porter, 48, of Babylon Village to the post, which administers the county's human rights law and investigates discrimination complaints in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Rabbi Steven Moss, commission chairman, said Porter's selection came after an extensive search in which two dozen contenders applied. She was chosen from a field of four finalists. Porter, who started in the new post Aug. 10, replaces Jennifer Blaske, also an attorney, who left in June for family reasons. Blaske had been executive director since 2011 and earlier served as a staff investigator for more than a decade.
"I'm thrilled by Mary's credentials and the dynamic personality she brings to the job," Moss said. He added he expects Porter will "increase the presence of the commission throughout the county . . . Every person in the county should know our organization, when there are cases of discrimination, we will stand with them and behind them."
Moss said that Porter has already begun to look for grants to provide new funding for the agency, which has only three investigators. At one time, Moss said, there were at least eight.
Porter said she plans to "use every resource to let people know we're here," and she will concentrate on enforcing new provisions of the county human rights law, adopted last January. It bars discrimination based on source of income, military status and against victims of domestic violence.
"This is something near and dear to my heart," Porter said. "Being a former prosecutor, there is a close connection between criminal justice and human justice."
Born in Washington, D.C., Porter graduated from Howard University and received her law degree from Temple University. She has been a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office and acting general counsel for the New York City medical examiner. She also worked with the mayor's criminal justice coordinators office to help develop crime reduction strategies to curb sex trafficking, underage prostitution and gun violence. More recently, she was a $90,019-a-year senior assistant Suffolk County attorney since 2013.
County Executive Steve Bellone said Porter will help cement Suffolk's reputation for "embracing diversity" after a decade when the county "had become a place known for intolerance."