Expanding the ACLU of New Jersey team is an essential step in working toward the organization’s vision of building a just and fair New Jersey. In March 2022, the ACLU-NJ expanded its leadership team with the appointment of four newly created positions, welcoming Carla Chávez as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, Harold Weaver as the Director of Finance, Rhea Beck as the Director of People and Culture, and Jim Sullivan as the Deputy Policy Director. The staff of the ACLU-NJ has grown significantly, with the majority of the team identifying as people of color, signaling the organization’s growing influence defending and advancing liberty and justice for all New Jerseyans.
To mark this expansion of leadership, we spoke with Carla about her new role and her vision for the future of the ACLU-NJ.
ACLU-NJ: As you begin your new role as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, what is your vision for the future of the ACLU-NJ and its leadership in advocacy spaces across the state?
Carla Chávez: The ACLU-NJ is a strong, values focused organization – ensuring that laws exist to protect civil rights and civil liberties of every New Jerseyan, and ensuring those laws are consistently and equitably enforced. My role is to lead the administration team to make sure all 30 staffers can focus on defending liberty and justice for all. The organization has grown rapidly over the last few years, and I’m sure our impact in the courts, in the legislature, and in communities across the state will keep growing stronger, too.
ACLU-NJ: What brought you to the ACLU-NJ? Do you remember the first time you heard of our work?
CC: I grew up in Puerto Rico and the first time I heard of the ACLU was in the movie The American President. I was fascinated by the idea that you make a country stronger by protecting even the right to dissent. I’ve been an ACLU member in every state I’ve lived in since college. The opportunity to join the ACLU-NJ, an organization at the forefront of so many critical issues our country faces, was a perfect moment to use my skills and experience to support a mission I believe in.
ACLU-NJ: What projects are you working on? How will they strengthen the ACLU-NJ’s integrated advocacy work?
CC: I’m working on a multitude of projects, mostly focused on organizational efficiency, to ensure that our team can dedicate most of their time to advocacy spaces. We’re continuing to prioritize equity in our office culture so we can keep building a team with experiences as diverse as New Jersey itself. Leading with intention, with a clear understanding of systemic racism, is key to dismantling barriers.