Nellie Gorbea has a history of success in working toward solutions to the challenges we face as Rhode Islanders. Throughout her life, Nellie has been driven to ensure equal access and greater opportunity for all. For more than 20 years, she has worked to ensure that voters participate in our democracy, that our economy grows across all incomes, and that Rhode Island is a better place to live and work.
Nellie served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2002 to 2006. She approached this role with a lifelong commitment to making government information easy to get and easy to use. She led the conversion of our 39 municipal voter lists into a central voter registration system with online access. To encourage small business growth in our state, she streamlined the process of filing business paperwork, creating a first-stop business portal on the web. She also created an online statewide open meetings notice system to make it easier for people to participate in and track the workings of government. And she created a partnership with Johnson & Wales University to provide hotel and tourism students work experience while professionalizing tours of the Rhode Island State House.
As the former executive director of HousingWorks RI, Nellie created partnerships with financial institutions, homebuilders, community-based agencies, educational institutions and local chambers of commerce to ensure that our state’s families and individuals are able to afford a home. Nellie and her team provided easy to understand information on housing and the economy to lawmakers, experts in the field, and the media during her tenure at HousingWorks RI. They were successful at improving access to rental and ownership opportunities in Rhode Island, strengthening the state’s economy. The housing bond that HousingWorks RI supported in 2010 is assisting with the financing for development of 370 apartments and homes throughout the state – providing both affordable homes and construction jobs for Rhode Islanders.
Nellie has considerable public and private sector experience, providing her with a unique understanding of the role of Secretary of State. She has tackled Rhode Island’s civic challenges during her years as a non-profit leader. She has worked with chambers of commerce and economic development groups on the challenges facing the business community. And she has worked to solve the challenges of government in Rhode Island since the 1990s when she participated in the Motor Voter Task Force – redesigning Rhode Island’s voter registration process to make it easier to register to vote at government agencies. As our Secretary of State, she will work everyday to meet those challenges and help make our state government work for all Rhode Islanders.
Nellie has deep roots in Rhode Island. Her commitment to serving our community can be seen in the wide number of organizations she has helped lead including: United Way of Rhode Island, the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, Salve Regina University, Providence Chamber of Commerce – Innovation Providence Committee, RI Free Clinic, Gateway Healthcare, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee. She is the Founding President of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund. Nellie’s leadership has been recognized by many, including the Providence Business News which named her 2009 Woman to Watch in Government, Social Services and Education. In 2013 she received the César Estrada Chávez Award Committee as well as the Latino Public Radio Community Excellence Award.
A Rhode Islander for most of her adult life, Nellie grew up in Puerto Rico and is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs. She also has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She and her husband, Steve D’Hondt, and their three daughters live in North Kingstown.