Administrator for San Rafael's IHSS Public Authority of Marin wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
When communities come together, there’s very little that cannot be accomplished, said Aaron Alarcón-Bowen of IHSS Public Authority of Marin, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Professional background: Public administrator
Education: Ph.D. candidate
Staff: Six direct staff and 250 caregivers
Tell us your story and that of your organization: The IHSS Public Authority of Marin is an independent, government agency that partners with Marin County’s Aging and Adult Services division in order to provide in-home care to low income older adults and individuals with disabilities. Our agency is in charge of recruiting, enrolling vetting and training in-home care providers. I have been with the authority for three and a half years.
I am originally from Mexico. I came to this country at the age of 18 when I started college at the University of Texas at El Paso.
I have spent all of my career working for social service agencies in a variety of roles, from being a fundraiser for one of the most prestigious nonprofit agencies in the nation, the United Way, to serving as a court appointed legal guardian for adults with diminished mental capacity. I have almost 10 years of experience in leadership roles in Texas and California.
I have a masters degree in public administration from the University of North Texas, and I am currently working on finishing my PhD in public policy at Walden University.
I have been working in Marin County for over six years now and I feel honored to be part of a community that regardless of the many challenges that we face, there is always a will to make things right and to do better.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
The pandemic has been challenging for everybody. As the leader of an agency that provides essential services, I was deeply concerned that migrating to offering some of our services from a virtual platform was going to interfere with the effectiveness of our service delivery.
It was indeed difficult at first but after the initial chaos, I was surprised to see that we did not only continue fulfilling our mission successfully but also, we were able to expand and improve our services, meeting the changing needs of our population.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Achievement during the pandemic? Start an on-call, emergency in-home care service to recipients that lost their caregiver unexpectedly. This was a collaboration with Marin County that was needed in our community.
Achievement in my life that I am proud of?
Many but I am particularly proud of not giving up during the years when I was an undocumented person. I lost my legal status right after college.
As it is the case with many other people, I overstayed my visa. The uncertainty that I experienced was crippling, yet I never allowed it to undermine my desire to make a difference in my community.
What is your biggest challenge today?
On a professional level? Because of the pandemic and the economic distress brought by it, the legislative framework underneath the services offered by my agency has been unstable.
On the other hand, the needs of the population that we serve keep increasing. My biggest challenge is to find a way to meet these needs with the resources that I have been given by our legislative bodies.
As far as my biggest challenge today on a personal level: to finish my dissertation. I am on the data collection stage which has slowed down due to the pandemic.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
I am very proud that during my tenure as the executive director of the Public Authority, our outreach to the Latino community has been enhanced.
According to a survey we conducted among our in-home caregivers back in 2017, most of them are Hispanic woman between the ages of 40 and 50. Based on that, our recruitment efforts have been tailored not only to better target this population but also to make sure that our agency does not only offer employment but also resources and tools to achieve self-sufficiency.
Words that best describe you: Creative, innovative, passionate, fair, analytical and compassionate
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
There have been several obstacles throughout my life. One of them, as pointed out before, was my status as undocumented person in this country. There were many things that I wanted to do that I couldn’t due to my legal status.
Another obstacle has been dealing with that voice in my head, known as the saboteur, that constantly tries to feed me negativity, always assuming that the worst is going to happen. The way I don’t let this voice takeover is through meditation and mindfulness.