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Commission on Human Rights
Jody B. Miller, Human Rights/EEO Officer


Commission on Human Rights 

The Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights shall be comprised of the Human Rights/EEO Officer, who will be the Chairperson of the Commission and 14 members (volunteers) representing a broad spectrum of the community, including, but not limited to the following factors:  areas of expertise, advocacy, experience, community involvement, profession, education, race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, and geography.

A member of the Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights shall be by reputation, inclination, training and experience, dedicated to the cause of human rights.  Any individual appointed to the Commission will have demonstrated an abiding interest in the cause of human rights and a familiarity with the community, its needs, problems, strengths, and weaknesses that will greatly assist that person in achieving the goals of the Commission.

Responsibilities of Commission Members 

Commission members are expected to fulfill the following:
  • Attend a minimum of 10 out of 12 monthly Commission meetings each year. 
  • Develop and carry out a work plan with goals, objectives, and outcomes for the Commission.
  • Develop and serve on one of the Commission’s work groups.
  • Serve as a liaison for a specific project/initiative.
  • Represent the Commission in the community at large including but not limited to municipal and non-profit agencies, schools and educational institutions, community outreach programs and events, among others, when doing Commission related work (defined in the Commission’s work plan).  
  • Report on activities attended to the Commission (that are coordinated, tracked and documented by staff). 
  • Estimated time commitment for Commission members is projected to be between 5-8 hours per month.
  • Submit an annual report to the County Executive, County Legislature and to furnish a copy to the New York State Division of Human Rights.


    All terms for Commission members shall be 3 years except for the Commission’s initial slate of appointments in 2016. 

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The Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights members are:​

  •   Jody Miller, Chair, Human Rights/EEO Officer
    • Committed to human rights and equity for all, Jody Miller is the Human Rights/EEO Officer and Chair of the Human Rights Commission. She is also responsible for Equal Employment Opportunity in the workplace, including the creation of a workforce diversity taskforce to increase diversity and inclusion in the county’s workforce. Prior to her current role, she spent more than 20 years in the alternative dispute resolution field, working closely with courts, businesses, non-profits and the community to create innovative mediation and conflict resolution training programs that responded to community needs.  

      Jody is an adjunct professor of mediation at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and is a Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. She serves on the Dutchess County Aging Services Advisory Board, NYS Sen. Sue Serino’s Aging Advisory Council and is a member of the Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan’s Judicial Committee on Elder Justice. Jody is a certified trainer through the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs (ADR).  She has published articles about mediation and co-authored a training manual for mediators that will be published in 2017.  She has been a presenter at conferences throughout the United States, as well as in Italy and China.  Jody is the 2016 recipient of the Lawrence Cooke Peace Innovator Award from the New York State Dispute Resolution Association. 

  •   Shirley Adams
    • Shirley A. Adams became the Executive Director of Catharine Street Community Center, Inc. (CSCC) in November 1996, Established in 1922, CSCC provides “school readiness and literacy” support services to at-risk children and their parents in need of Pre-School, Before, Between, After School and Summer Enrichment Programs. 

      Before joining Catharine St., Shirley served in NY City government under the leadership of Mayor Edward Koch. For twelve years, she worked with the NYC Department of Investigations, Office of the Inspector General as a Special Investigator & Assistant Inspector General.  She was appointed by Mayor David Dinkins, and re-appointed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to the position of First Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development Agency where she was responsible for NYC’s Community-Based Programs and the NYS Community Action Program including the Home Energy Assistance Program.

      Shirley currently serves on the Board of Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery and is a Past President and Board Member of the Poughkeepsie-Arlington Rotary Club. She is the Board Chair of the Poughkeepsie Housing Authority. For more than ten years, tasked with the selection of new judges, Shirley along with two other members comprises the City of Poughkeepsie Mayor’s Judiciary Screening Committee.  

      Shirley earned a BA in Psychology and Special Education from Bennett College, Greensboro, NC, and a MA in Public Administration from NYU. Shirley resides with her family in Poughkeepsie, New York.

  •   Victoria Anderson
    • When human beings experience events that leave them hurt, angry, and doubtful of their value and security, it is easy to lose sight of what makes life meaningful—connection and shared understanding with people like and unlike themselves. Victoria Anderson’s great passion is to remind people of the value of these connections, and what is lost when they are forgotten; a journey strengthening her personal faith in humanity, and that of others. Her path so far has led her to share, learn, laugh and cry with peers from her hometown of Poughkeepsie, to professionals in the state capital, to the vulnerable populations of South America and the Caribbean.

      Ms. Anderson recognizes there is no single approach, no single strategy that will bridge communities and broaden understanding, which is why she has chosen to stretch her knowledge and skillset far and wide to encapsulate as much opportunity for growth as possible, studying and practicing skills such as mediation, facilitation, coaching, personal and professional development.

      Victoria Anderson is a Training and Organizational Development Specialist for New York State.  She received her Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Law and her Masters of Public Administration from Binghamton University. Along with these degrees, Ms. Anderson holds two graduate specialization certificates in Nonprofit Administration and Local Government Management. In addition to training and organizational development, Ms. Anderson enjoys volunteering her time to our globalized society, including international community and nonprofit organizations. She currently resides in Dutchess County with her family and her cat, Kitty.

  •   Linda Balloqui-Smith
    • Linda Balloqui-Smith has been a clinician advocating for children and families for seventeen years.  Her belief is that we each have an intricate story to share and deserve the right and respect to be heard.  Her experience working in the Mental Health field includes Inpatient Psychiatric, Partial Hospitalization, Residential Treatment, Outpatient Clinics, LGBTQ Youth Center, and a Rehabilitation Center for Traumatic Brain Injury.  

      Her first Graduate Degree is in Art Therapy.   She recognizes that the Arts are inherently healing and that the creative process is essential to our overall well-being in all the forms we choose to express it.  She is currently doing her second Graduate Degree in Social Justice with a Macro concentration in Leadership, Organizational Systems, Evaluation, Analysis, and International Policy.

      She is a Dominican American Spanish Speaker.  She has been an active member of various feminist organizations throughout New York and the Dominican Republic.  She is committed to the Latino community both locally and internationally with a concentration in International Latin American Women’s Rights.  

  •   Thomas Onaje Benjamin
    • Onaje Benjamin, MA, MSW, is a community activist committed to social justice and human rights. Onaje facilitates workshops, lectures extensively, and written articles on a variety of issues.  Onaje is the recipient of the Association of Black Social Workers Outstanding Achievement Award, and was the first recipient of the Moe Foner Fellowship for Social Justice awarded jointly by the Empire State College Graduate Degree Program at SUNY and the Bread & Roses Foundation-1199 Hospital Worker s Union SEIU, AFL-CIO.  In 2007, he received his Masters in Liberal Arts from Empire State College and a Masters in Social Work from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services in 2014.  He is retired from the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office where he served as a Transition Counselor.

      Onaje is currently the Academic Coordinator for Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison’s SUNY Ulster College Program at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility, Wallkill, NY.

  •   Michele Bertran
    • Michele Bertran resolutely supports the fullest enjoyment of civil liberties and creative expression of humanity as enumerated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recently retired, Michele has many years of experience working in a variety of settings on social justice issues, peaceful conflict resolution, and legal system access and court improvement. .She is a member of the New Jersey bar and holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Rutgers University School of Law and a Master of Science from Long Island University. An advocate for constructive dialogue and innovative leadership, she has extensive training in dispute resolution including family, civil, community, and child welfare mediation. Fluent in Spanish, she is also a Fellow of the National Center for State Courts Institute for Court Management and has conducted training for international and state courts and court improvement organizations. Michele is the proud mother and mother-in-law to Nicole and Steve and Danielle and Patrick. She lives in Hyde Park with her husband of 40 years, Ricardo.


  •   Jen Drake
    • Biography coming soon

  •   Chris St. Germain
    • Dr. Chris St. Germain is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked on behalf of community advocacy and social justice for many years. He was a recipient of the Dutchess County Forty Under 40 Awards in 2015. In addition to working as a psychologist for the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Dr. St. Germain has been a clinician in private practice working with individuals, couples, families, and groups. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Marist College and SUNY Dutchess Community College.

      With research and publications on subjects relating to diversity and human wellness, Dr. St. Germain has served as a consultant, speaker, and trainer for many local and regional organizations on topics such as multicultural competency, improving intercultural awareness, and social justice in organizational settings. He is truly honored and excited to be a member of the Dutchess County Human Rights Commission and to continue to advocate for all voices in our county through this role. Originally from New York, Dr. St. Germain spent many years living in Northern Virginia and throughout California before returning to the area and settling down in the Hudson Valley with his partner and their dog.

      An avid foodie, movie buff, and lover of mid-century style, Dr. St. Germain works towards experiencing and preserving the amazing and diverse offerings that this area and the Hudson Valley community have to offer.

  •   Jen Herman
    • Jen is a spoken word artist and social justice advocate living in Beacon, NY. Growing up in Troy, NY, Jen moved to the mid-hudson valley to attend SUNY New Paltz where she completed a BA in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies. Since graduating, Jen has worked for and volunteered at human service agencies throughout Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties. With a passion for empowering youth to be agents of change, Jen has facilitated over 400 workshops with young people in the Hudson Valley to support them on their journeys of self-empowerment and activism. She received the Asset Builder/Outstanding Youth Worker Award in 2015 from the Orange County Executive’s Youth Bureau Awards. She currently works as the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator in Dutchess County and is pursuing her Masters in Social Work at Adelphi University, expected to graduate in August 2018. Jen volunteers for United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. As a spoken word artist, Jen uses her writing and performance as a platform to educate on the realities of systemic oppression and privilege, calling for unity among all people. She won the first ever Milkweed Poetry Slam in Sugar Loaf, NY, for her piece “Pulse” on the Orlando nightclub massacre.


  •   Lance Ringel
    • Lance Ringel served as Assistant Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights during the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo.  In Dutchess County, he is known for his work as editor of the Weekend section of Taconic Newspapers in the late 1990s.  As a volunteer, he has served for many years on a variety of area boards and councils, including the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, where he ultimately held every office, including President; the Dutchess County Arts Council (now Arts Mid-Hudson), where he chaired the Allocations Committee; and the Rhinecliff Hamlet Advisory Council, which he led as Chair.

      For the past 16 years, Ringel has worked at Vassar College, where he was principal writer of two theater pieces: Vassar Voices, a staged reading reviewing 150 years of the college’s history that opened at Jazz at Lincoln Center with a cast featuring Meryl Streep and Lisa Kudrow; and At Home in the World, a music-and-words collaboration spotlighting the talents of young performers from Japan, Uganda, and America that performed to sold-out audiences in all three countries.

      An author of gay historical fiction, Ringel has received acclaim for his World War I novel Flower of Iowa, called “accomplished, touching historical fiction” by Kirkus Reviews on its 2014 release, and for his play In Love with the Arrow Collar Man, which had its world premiere at this year’s New York New Works Theatre Festival.  He lives in Poughkeepsie with his spouse of 40 years, actor, composer and director Chuck Muckle. 

  •   Seema Rizvi
    • Biography coming soon

  •   Kathryn Sajdak
    • Biography coming soon